Dr. John Foust, class of 1955, has always been a trailblazer: As the first resident in the Otolaryngology Division at UNC Hospitals, he laid the groundwork for future Ear, Nose, and Throat surgeons to hone their expertise at UNC. Under Dr. Foust’s leadership, a group of medical alumni established The Loyalty Fund 30 years ago to support scholarships, foster academic excellence, provide enrichment opportunities and build community. His key role in establishing the Loyalty Fund created a means through which UNC School of Medicine alumni, residents, fellows, and faculty could support academic excellence for years to come.
The Loyalty Fund’s success is most apparent in the stories of students and faculty who have benefited from the generosity of alumni giving. Dr. Wesley Fowler, Associate Dean for Medical Alumni Affairs and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, sees the fund as an important vehicle for encouraging the medical alumni to give back by supporting student enrichment.
As an alumnus himself, Dr. Fowler knows firsthand what it means to be a member of the UNC School of Medicine alumni, “I love this place because it’s given me a life. I’m a country boy from Dunn, and most people in my family didn’t complete high school. I was lucky enough to complete my undergraduate degree and medical education at UNC, and now I serve on faculty. I don’t know what I’d do without it.” He adds, “I’ve visited virtually every medical school in the country, and I’m always proud to say where I’m from.”
Dr. Fowler’s love of UNC has made him particularly well suited to recruit top candidates to the UNC School of Medicine. Mackenzie Davis was a senior at UNC when she interviewed with Dr. Fowler in the fall of 2015. She was accepted to the School of Medicine, but was unsure if she would stay in Chapel Hill—having grown up in a military family, the pull to try something new and different was a strong one. In spring 2016, Mackenzie was walking by the Bell Tower on what she describes as “the most perfect spring day,” when Dr. Fowler called to tell her that she had received the Medical Alumni Faculty Loyalty Fund scholarship. The scholarship pays the first year of a student’s tuition and provides supplemental funding for travel and conferences all four years of the student’s medical school career. The call from Dr. Fowler meant she, too, would become a member of the UNC School of Medicine alumni.
It was not just the financial support that convinced Mackenzie to come to the UNC School of Medicine—it was the knowledge that faculty and alumni had invested in her future and they believed in her potential success. She remembers thinking, “hands down, I’m coming here because these people really care about me.” Mackenzie’s support through the Loyalty Fund did not end with the Medical Alumni Faculty Loyalty Fund scholarship. She received the Jewell Mitchell Loyalty Fund scholarship her second year and corresponds periodically with the benefactor, Dr. Stephen Ray Mitchell, Dean for Medical Education at Georgetown University. Being a part of this community has given Mackenzie confidence and pushed her to be the best medical student and physician she can be. She plans to practice psychiatry—a career that has been inspired by the volunteer work she has engaged in all thanks to the freedom of her Loyalty Fund scholarships.
Faculty member Dr. Amy Shaheen also emphasizes the freedom that comes with Loyalty Fund support. Dr. Shaheen, Professor of Medicine, is a recipient of the Loyalty Fund’s Medical Alumni Distinguished Teaching Professorship—a professorship that honors mid-career faculty with a track record of substantial leadership in teaching medical students as well as educational innovation. She describes the travel funds that come with her professorship as being “instrumental for developing a national reputation.” An investment in her travel paid off quickly, as her increased presence at Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine (AAIM) meetings has led to her election as president of one of the five AAIM subgroups next year. The professorship has also enabled Dr. Shaheen to launch “Physician Leadership in Quality and Safety,” a concentration that had been strongly encouraged by School of Medicine leadership but had not yet secured funding for implementation. Medical students in this concentration are already improving quality of care—one has developed a process for standardizing opioid prescriptions, another has implemented a COPD disease management program in Cary, and another has made recommendations for reducing the amount of time children are under anesthesia. Most importantly, the Loyalty Fund has given Dr. Shaheen the freedom to try new ideas. She shares, “When people have great ideas, I can say, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s see if it works, and we’ll measure what the impact is.’”
The Loyalty Fund is about investing in students like Mackenzie and faculty like Dr. Shaheen. Dr. Fowler’s colleague Kathy Harris, Director of Medical Alumni Affairs, believes this investment in current and future “top notch physicians” is a critical investment and one that is more rewarding than one could ever imagine.