WNY Medical Scholarships give two Jacobs School grads more reason to celebrate

L to R: Jessica Flores, holding an envelope and gift, Allison Brashear, and Paige Guy holding an envelope and gift, all standing togehter and smiling.

L to R: Class of 2024 members Jessica Flores (left) and Paige Guy (right) pose with Allison Brashear, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School, after receiving their WNY Medical Scholarships. Photo: Sandra Kicman.

Release Date: May 1, 2024

“Our motto is simple: Live here. Train here. Remain here. ”
John Bodkin, MD, Alumnus and founder of the WNY Medical Scholarship Fund
Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Surviving the rigors of four years of medical school is no small feat. So when the Class of 2024 attended commencement ceremonies last Friday at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo, they were more than ready to celebrate.

This year, two Jacobs School grads have even more reason to celebrate. Jessica Grace Flores and Paige Leona Guy recently learned they are both recipients of a Western New York Medical Scholarship of $120,000 each.

The scholarship will cut their medical school debt roughly in half.

The WNY Medical Scholarship program is a family of scholarships that was initiated by Jacobs School alumni and local business and community leaders in order to tackle two goals: the shortage of physicians in Western New York, especially in underserved areas, and medical student debt.

Since 2012, the Western New York Medical Scholarship Fund, an independent, grassroots, community organization, has been providing scholarships to Western New York students who attend the Jacobs School and then pledge to stay and practice medicine here for five years after completing their training.

Flores is a recipient of the Jonathan D. Daniels, MD ’98 & Family Memorial Scholarship; Guy is a recipient of the Catholic Health System scholarship.

A California native, Flores became familiar with Buffalo after meeting her fiancé, whose roots are in upstate New York. She happened to be visiting downtown Buffalo when the newly constructed medical school caught her eye.

“I could see myself studying there,” she recalls, noting the large, bright windows overlooking Main Street. Once she started the interview process, she said she became even more interested.

“The people were so kind,” she says. During the interview process, when she toured the school, her tour guide happened to be the late Jonathan Daniels, for whom her scholarship is named.

“He took us into a room where a student happened to be studying,” Flores says. “Dr. Daniels knew who he was and started talking to him, and I thought, ‘Ok, he cares.’ I thought, ‘They value the students and take the time to know them.’”

Coming from a family where she was the first to attend graduate school, Flores says it was impossible to fully comprehend the amount of money that medical school costs. “It’s like play money; I can’t even fathom it,” she says.

‘The hugest thing’

So for Flores, getting this scholarship is “the hugest thing.” This summer, she begins residency in pediatrics at UB and at the John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital.

“This scholarship is an opportunity for me to focus on what I want to do,” she says. “I don’t have to specialize. It’s liberating.”

Guy, a native of Lockport, always knew she wanted to go into health care. “But I thought being a doctor was way out of reach,” she says.

She started out at SUNY Niagara (formerly Niagara County Community College) and quickly fell in love with medicine. She enrolled at UB, majoring in biomedical sciences. The idea of trying to become a physician began to seem possible.

After graduating, she spent a year doing research in a UB lab. She met the man who would become her husband. Coincidentally, he was already a Jacobs School student. A native of New York City, he assumed he would return to his hometown for residency, but once Guy was accepted to the Jacobs School, he reconsidered.

Now, both of them will be practicing medicine in Buffalo. “I never really wanted to go anywhere else,” says Guy, who will be starting her internal medicine residency at UB.

And staying local has had multiple advantages, especially when they decided to start a family while Guy was in medical school. They are the proud parents of a toddler and a 5-month-old, both of whom attended commencement when their mother graduated.

‘Live here. Train here. Remain here’

Both Flores and Guy demonstrate exactly what the Western New York Medical Scholarship is seeking to promote. “Our motto is simple: Live here. Train here. Remain here,” says John Bodkin, MD, a Jacobs School alumnus who has led the charge to get more Jacobs School graduates to stay and practice here.

Bodkin, who was president of Highgate Medical and a family physician with the practice for 40 years, and other alumni and business leaders have raised over $4 million from private donors, health systems, corporations and foundations.

The fund has provided scholarships to more than 44 Jacobs School medical students, many of whom will practice primary care in underserved areas, where the shortages are most severe.

“Our focus is debt reduction, so that students can afford to practice in underserved areas,” says Bodkin.

The scholarships are responding to a key factor driving physician shortages: Surveys of medical students indicate that the debt students take on to go to medical school drives the subsequent area of specialty. In addition, an aging population of doctors and higher salaries in bigger cities can also create shortages in places like Buffalo. Over the past 10 years, statewide estimates have put Western New York among the regions in the state with some of the lowest numbers of physicians per 100,000 people.

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