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Celebrating Diversity Dinner Supports Funding for Student Scholarships

March 02, 2016

The University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) held its ninth annual “Celebrating Diversity” reception and dinner on February 27, 2016 at the Marriott Inner Harbor at Camden Yards. The event was attended by nearly 300 guests, who gathered to honor diversity at the school, recognize those who have helped increase its diversity, and to raise money for the Dean Emeritus Donald E. Wilson Endowed Scholarship fund and other UM SOM diversity scholarships. Dean Wilson and his wife Patricia hosted this year’s event. 
During the 2015-2016 academic year, UM SOM awarded more than $3.5 million in direct support to students. Of that, more than $1 million went towards diversity scholarships to 48 medical students. Over the past ten years, the School of Medicine has awarded more than $5.5 million in financial aid, due directly to the generosity of our alumni and friends.  
This year, UM SOM will award the inaugural Wilson Legacy Scholarship. Proceeds from past Diversity dinners, as well as generous contributions from many others, enabled the school to create this endowed scholarship. “Congratulations, Dr. Wilson, on this important milestone,” said UM SOM Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, who is also Vice President for Medical Affairs, University of Maryland, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor. “We are pleased to have this scholarship, which will honor you in perpetuity and reward outstanding and deserving medical students for many years to come.”
Dean Reece also took a moment to honor another pioneer for diversity at the school, Elijah Saunders, MD, Professor of Medicine, who passed away last April. “Eli was a quiet and a humble man,” said Dean Reece. “Yet, through his multitude of good works and honorable deeds, he was a roaring giant of a man. He lived his life purposefully, blazing trails and making an impact every step of the way. This event and the purpose behind it were very important to Eli. We are grateful for his boundless wisdom, and we continue to remember the lessons he taught us.”
To honor such faculty champions of diversity, in recent years an awards presentation has been added to the Celebrating Diversity ceremony, to bestow the Dean’s Faculty Award for Diversity and Inclusion to a member of the UM SOM faculty. This year’s recipient was Eduardo Davila, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Microbiology & Immunology, and Program Leader of the Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy Program at the University of Maryland Marlene & Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center (UMGCC).
“We are seeing a revolution in cancer care, and scientists like Dr. Davila are leading the way,” said Kevin J. Cullen, MD, Professor of Medicine and Director of UMGCC, who nominated Dr. Davila for the 2016 award. “His work in immunotherapy and immunology is resulting in new treatment strategies that provide new hope for cancer patients everywhere. Dr Cullen also praised his strong advocacy for minority access to scientific careers.
“I am simply humbled and honored by this wonderful award,” said Dr. Davila. “I thank those individuals who nominated me and the committee who selected me. I am equally grateful to the wonderfully supportive staff, faculty and students who make my efforts to increase diversity and inclusion and to serve the medical school, the graduate school, and the cancer center. They make it easier for us who are willing to make that extra effort.”
Dr. Davila is currently leading an effort to establish a Science Training for Advancing Biomedical Research – Post-baccalaureate Research Education Program (STAR-PREP) at UM SOM and the Graduate Program in Life Sciences (GPILS). STAR-PREP, which is sponsored by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences is designed to augment scientific education and research experience of underrepresented minority baccalaureates and increase the number of these students who are accepted into highly competitive biomedical-related PhD or MD/PhD programs and research careers. This program would be the first of its kind at UM SOM. 
“I am truly proud that the School is constantly seeking opportunities to enhance diversity in ways that will transform the health care work force and address the needs of an increasingly diverse population,” said Michal Cryor, Chairman of the UM SOM Board of Visitors and President of The Cryor Group, a communications consulting company. “It is a tremendous pleasure to work in support of an institution that is so committed to its surrounding community.”
Other speakers at the event included Rochelle Arbuah, a fourth-year student and scholarship recipient; Sandra Quezada, MD, MS, Assistant Dean for Admissions and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine; and Eve J. Higginbotham, SM, MD, Vice Dean for Inclusion and Diversity and Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Science Fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, and Co-Founder and Director of RO1 Squared, Inc. This was a homecoming for Dr. Higginbotham, who was Professor and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at UM SOM for 12 years.
Numerous current and prospective UM SOM students attended the diversity event thanks to the generosity of the event’s presenting sponsor, the Medical Alumni Association of the University of Maryland, Inc. The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company and Dr. and Mrs. Donald E. Wilson were Gold Sponsors. Banks Construction and Mahogany, Inc. were Silver Sponsors. Table sponsors were the Departments of Anesthesiology, Emergency Medicine, Epidemiology & Public Health, Family & Community Medicine, Neurology, Neurosurgery, Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences, Orthopaedics, Radiation Oncology and Surgery; The Baltimore Times; The Institute for Global Health; Edmond F. Notebaert; Dr. Yvette Rooks; Shock Trauma Associates; the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center; and the University of Maryland Medical Center. Other contributors to the event were the Department of Anatomy & Neurobiology and Dr. Mary Njoku.
If you are interested in making a contribution to the Dean Emeritus Donald E. Wilson Endowed Scholarship fund, please visit  for more information. Or you can contact Rebecca Herman, Assistant Director of Special Events in the Office of Development, at 410-706-5057, or


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