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Scholarship Luncheon unites students, benefactors

Donor Norene Zapanta with Maria Sandoval, recipient of a Keck School scholarship named in honor of Zapanta’s late husband (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

The daughter of undocumented immigrants, Maria Sandoval credits excellent mentoring for helping her become the first member of her family to graduate high school and college. Now in her third year at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, she’s getting another boost in her quest to practice as a primary care physician in her underserved community in the San Fernando Valley.

Sandoval is the recipient of this year’s scholarship named for Edward Zapanta, the late USC neurosurgeon and first Hispanic member of the USC Board of Trustees. She recently had the opportunity to thank Norene Zapanta for continuing her husband’s support of Hispanic medical students when the two shared a meal at the Keck School’s annual Scholarship Luncheon, held on Oct. 2 on the Harry and Celesta Pappas Quad.

“I get to meet the person who believed in me and thought it was important to help others to become doctors and be successful,” Sandoval said. “I’m very grateful to have the honor of accepting this scholarship.”

Said Zapanta: “It’s important for the students to know that we’re here supporting them. And I hope they learn to give back. I think that’s the biggest thing.”

In his opening remarks at the luncheon, Henri Ford, vice dean for medical education at the Keck School, thanked the donors for enabling the school to maintain its competitive edge.

“Scholarships, as you know, are truly vital in continuing to attract the very top students,” he said, “and also for Keck to continue to expand its influence locally, as well as globally, in the medical arena.”

Ford noted that the generosity of donors has allowed the Keck School to increase its number of scholarships from 19 to 42 over the past two years.

Keck School Dean Carmen A. Puliafito added that it isn’t enough to attract students who are academically strong.

“We’re looking to have a diverse student body with medical students from underrepresented minorities in the United States,” Puliafito said. “This is very important in the delivery of equal-access health care.”

Fourth-year Keck School student Tavis Dickerson-Young was one of the scholars invited to share his story and discuss the impact scholarships have had on his education. Brought up by a single mother with limited financial resources, he managed to work and put himself through college. However, the high cost of medical education would have been an insurmountable obstacle without help.

“It’s because of your scholarship donations that I am able to pursue my dream of becoming a physician,” Dickerson-Young said. “While your contributions have made a substantial difference in our lives as students, what is greater is that you are also giving to all of the patients whom we will treat throughout our careers.”

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Scholarship Luncheon unites students, benefactors

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