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College of Medicine Alumnus Inspired by UTHSC’s Community Outreach to Give Back

Dr. David A. McMillan

Despite the success of his more-than-30-year career, UTHSC College of Medicine alumnus (’82) and retired emergency medicine physician David A. McMillan never felt a strong desire to give back to his alma mater. As Dr. McMillan celebrated his 40th reunion from the College of Medicine, he reflected on his time there.  

Dr. McMillan joined the UTHSC College of Medicine from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.  

“Medical school back then was like Marine boot camp. I have a 3.75 GPA and am a member of Phi Beta Kappa. However, I got here and realized I was just one of 250; you may be at the bottom of this 250,” he said. “It was difficult for me to get through those first two years. I may have looked like a duck, calm on the surface but paddling like hell under the surface.” 

It was by chance that Dr. McMillan reconnected with his alma mater during a difficult time for everyone. Dr. McMillan found himself at the City of Memphis vaccination site at the Mid-South Fairgrounds, while trying to receive his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. During a snowy Valentine’s Day, he remembers receiving the text offering the shot for those who could make it by 1 p.m. Dr. McMillan did make it, and when he arrived, he noticed a few volunteers brandishing a familiar logo – UTHSC. 

Dr. McMillan took this as an opportunity to lend a hand and asked one of the UTHSC volunteers for information on how he could also volunteer. “I felt so proud that UT(HSC) was taking the lead, and where there was confusion and chaos, UTHSC said, ‘we’re going to plant our flag and give legitimacy to this operation and show how it can be successful.’ ”  

Dr. McMillan, back row, fifth from right, was so impressed to see UTHSC students and faculty volunteering at a community vaccination site during the pandemic, that he decided to get involved with the College of Medicine again for the first time since his graduation in 1982.

After his experience volunteering at the vaccination site, Dr. McMillan continued to serve as a mentor to students in the college. Through this, he realized that a lot had changed in medical education since his time as a student.  

He sees the mental health resources, simulation labs, and technology available to students as game changers in how the College of Medicine approaches medical education today. 

Dr. McMillan has decided to cement his restored relationship with UTHSC through the endowment of a scholarship in the College of Medicine in his estate plans. Sarah Shore, a fourth-year student in the College of Medicine who worked as a medical scribe for Dr. McMillan, helped him decide who the scholarship should benefit. Initially, Dr. McMillan thought to endow a scholarship exclusively for fourth-year students interested in emergency medicine. However, Shore convinced him to support students throughout medical school, while focusing a portion of the scholarship for those at the very point in medical school that he had struggled the most – the first two years. 

Dr. McMillan was diagnosed with Stage 3 melanoma in 2015, leading to his retirement from practice. For him, this scholarship represents a legacy of reaching back and helping those the way he wishes he’d been helped more than 30 years ago. 

“If you want to leave a legacy, what better way than to have students be able to say, ‘I got the David McMillan Scholarship,’ ” he said.

Dr. McMillan is grateful for his contribution to medicine and his desire to see current and future College of Medicine students benefit from their experience at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. 

“I’m out of the game. I’m happy. It is a different world. I enjoyed it, and I had a lot of experiences in 36 years. If you ask people, I think they would say he was a great doctor, and if people say that, I would think I did alright.” Dr. McMillan pauses before he continues, “To have people like Sarah Shore and my niece, Lillian McCampbell, who is a first-year, speak well of me makes me think I did good and impacted others, and the medical world is in good hands.”

For questions about gifts and scholarship support, please reach out to the UTHSC Office of Advancement at 901.448.5516 or giving@uthsc.edu. 

Dr. McMillan talks about his time in medical school and why he wants to give back.