The fifth annual UC Riverside School of Medicine Celebration of Medical Education Gala returned as an in-person event with nearly 200 community members, staff, faculty and students coming together at the Riverside Convention Center on Nov. 19, 2022.
It was the first in-person gathering since 2019, with the 2020 and 2021 versions being held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It was so nice to return to an in-person gala," said Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences, and Mark and Pam Rubin Dean Deborah Deas, M.D., M.P.H. "We are so grateful to everyone who came out to show their support of medical education in Inland Southern California."
Edna Yohannes, the executive director of development at the School of Medicine, said that gala raised in excess of $90,000 that goes toward the Mission Award Scholarship Fund, which provides two- and four-year scholarships to students to cover the cost of their medical education in exchange for a commitment to practice in Inland Southern California for at least two and a half or five years following completion of their residencies.
“It’s very rewarding to see that each year we are expanding our community of supporters for Mission Award Scholarships. For the first time since the pandemic, it was thrilling to host our donors and medical students in person and witness the excitement of fellowship with each other in the room. The Mission Awards Scholarship program has grown exponentially with a total of 151 scholarship recipients thus far since the inception of the medical school almost 10 years ago. We’re grateful for all of our donors’ ongoing support and commitment to expanding medical care in the Inland Empire,” said Edna Yohannes, executive director of development for the School of Medicine.
Deas provided an update on newsworthy events in the School of Medicine, including the status of the new School of Medicine Education II building that is scheduled to open in the fall of 2023, and the recent news that UCR was ranked 11th in diversity by UC News and World Report and that the Medical Leaders of Tomorrow Program had received the 2022 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award.
"Both these awards are intended to recognize colleges and universities which demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion," Deas said.
Deas acknowledged several benefactors in attendance, including Pam Rubin, who supported three full Mission Award scholarships and with her late husband Mark endowed the dean's position, the Inland Empire Health Plan, under the leadership of CEO Jarrod McNaughton, which supported 23 scholarships annually three years in a row, and Teresa and Byron Pollitt, whose seed match donation of $250,000 has allowed the creation of the first endowed Mission Award Scholarship Fund.
The dean proceeded to thank all who supported this event through sponsorship, ticket purchases and donations.
"Without your support, many of these successes would not have been within our reach. The leadership of our community was essential to the formation of the medical school, and it remains critical to our future achievement. Your support and dedication to this mission helped shape the values that we strive to live every day: those values of integrity, inclusion, innovation, excellence, accountability, and respect," she said. "You epitomize the African proverb 'If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.' I know we can count on you to go together with UCR School of Medicine to improve the health of our community.”
First year medical student Arturo Chavez, the recipient of the 2021 Gala Mission Award Scholarship, provided the keynote address, telling the story of his path to a career in medicine. The child of immigrant parents from Mexico who instilled in him a deep work ethic and a commitment to social justice and service toward the underserved and marginalized in the community, Chavez decided to enter medicine after his younger brother suffered a medical event that left him in a coma for 28 days. However, his plans to go to medical school were delayed and he spent 16 years as a high school science teacher before the events of the last five years reignited his passion to become a physician.
"In many ways, UCR School of Medicine chose me rather than choosing it. The school’s mission was tailor-made to fit my mission. In that resonance, I found a program that I believed in and believed in me, leadership that was genuine and empowered, and a wonderful and gifted student body that shared the same vision and was inspired by the same drive to accelerate social change through medicine in our surrounding communities," he said. "I became profoundly emotional when I learned I was the recipient of the Dean’s Mission Award Scholarship. I immediately knew the implications of having been chosen to be a recipient. The looming burden of financial ruin had been lifted, and I was not only empowered to pursue my life’s mission, but the school had demonstrated that I belonged here and that my journey was valued. Receiving this award was life-changing and life-affirming."
MS2 Aliyah Qurashi and MS3 Danae Bowen, past recipients of the Mission Award, were featured in a short video in which they reflected on the importance of the award. UCR undergraduate student Karen Keonorasak performed the Miley Cyrus song “The Climb” to an appreciative audience.
Guests enjoyed a meal of slow-roasted beef chateau medallions with butter braised mushrooms, roasted acorn squash, broccolini and duchess potatoes or pulled oat protein patty topped with a mushroom jus lie resting on a bed of cauliflower mash with roasted acorn squash and broccolini. Dessert included a chocolate ganache cheesecake and vegan chocolates from Parliament Chocolate in Redlands.