University of South Alabama, Office of Public Relations

October 10, 2007
Contact: Jennifer Z. Ekman , USA Public Relations, (251) 460-6360

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The Ernest G. DeBakey Charitable Foundation Establishes Scholarships for USA Medical Students Focus on Training Doctors For Rural Practice

The Ernest G. DeBakey Charitable Foundation has given $280,000 to the University of South Alabama to establish a new scholarship fund for medical students who commit to serving in rural Alabama communities as primary care doctors for at least five years after medical school and residency training.

The Ernest G. DeBakey Scholarship has been awarded this fall to two College of Medicine students: Mary Margaret Clapp of Maplesville, Ala., and Christin Lyn Davis of Smiths Station, Ala. Each student will receive a $35,000 scholarship for each year in medical
  DeBakey Scholarship Recipients
school. After their primary care residency, the students will commit to spending at least five years in an underserved, rural Alabama community as a primary care provider. The scholarship is designed to help alleviate the shortage of doctors in rural areas of the state.
The scholarship program, which began with a careful interviewing and selection process, targets students who are natives of rural Alabama, since research shows these students are more likely to practice medicine in rural settings. Through the students’ four years in medical school, they will be encouraged to develop an interest in and passion for rural medicine. They will be mentored throughout the process. The scholarship students will be strongly encouraged to complete their residency training through the USA College of Medicine.
Marsha DeBakey said her late husband was a pioneer in traveling to rural communities to conduct operations. She said she wanted to pass on his passion for rural health care to the next generation of physicians.
“It is essential that we find some way to educate young people and send them back into the rural communities that are so underserved,” DeBakey said. “Many of the rural physicians are retiring now, and we’re going to have a real crisis if we don’t replace them.”
Dr. Samuel Strada, interim dean of the College of Medicine, said of the new scholarship, “The College of Medicine is excited and enthusiastic to join with the Dr. Ernest DeBakey Charitable Foundation to identify and provide scholarship support to medical students with an interest in practicing medicine in rural communities in Alabama. This noteworthy partnership reflects a proactive attempt to address critical shortages of physicians in rural communities.”
Dr. Joseph F. Busta Jr., vice president of development and alumni relations, said the DeBakey gift was a significant scholarship for medical students and medical services.
“The DeBakey Foundation Scholarship gift is one of the largest we have received in our Campaign and sets an extremely high standard of scholarship value for our students in the College of Medicine,” Busta said.
The DeBakey Charitable Foundation’s gifts are part of Campaign USA, the University’s first comprehensive fund-raising campaign that seeks to raise $75 million for USA programs, faculty, students and construction over three years. Campaign USA was launched in March 2006 and, to date, has raised $58.6 million. The Campaign USA Leadership team is comprised of civic and business leaders, many of whom are alumni.
Campaign USA will enrich all aspects of USA, from its academic colleges and schools to its hospitals, athletic programs, libraries and campuses. The money raised will be used to fund such items as undergraduate and graduate scholarships, professorships, classroom and laboratory equipment, and health care innovations. Funds will also be used for capital enhancements to USA’s athletic programs and a campus bell tower.
For information on Campaign USA, visit or call (251) 460-7032.
The University of South Alabama
Since its founding in 1963, the University of South Alabama has been one of Alabama’s fastest growing universities, currently enrolling more than 14,000 students in a wide range of academic programs in Allied Health Professions, Arts and Sciences, Mitchell College of Business, Computer and Information Sciences, Continuing Education and Special Programs, Education, Engineering, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. The University has awarded 60,000 degrees.
In addition to teaching and research, USA is one of the largest health care providers in the Mobile region, with its faculty physicians and two hospitals – Children’s & Women’s and USA Medical Center – involved in more than a quarter million patient encounters annually.
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