Wesley Slaven remembers the day he received notice of his estimated financial aid for medical school.
During his shift as an emergency medical scribe, he learned he would be $10,000 short to pay for the estimated cost to attend his first-year at the UTHSC College of Medicine.
“It showed $42,000 in federal loans, $7,500 for my merit scholarship, and $10,000 short of what the estimated cost for the year was,” Slaven said. “I remember calling my mom after my shift, crying because I was so unsure of how I would be able to pay for medical school. It was frustrating getting so far and then coming to this roadblock.”
A native of Oneida, Tennessee, Slaven decided to visit his mom two days after their phone conversation. She mentioned a letter was waiting for him from the Office of Admissions.
“I opened the letter that literally changed my life,” Slaven said. “I’d gotten my scholarship bumped to what was essentially a full ride. I read it over three times before I could talk. I was physically shaking. My mom finally asked what it said, and when I told her, she hugged me and told me that I was finally going to be where I had been working to be for all of those years.”
The letter was for a scholarship funded through the Austin and Lauren Fite Family Scholarship.
The scholarship was established in 2017 by UTHSC College of Medicine 1971 alumnus Austin Fite, MD, and his wife, Lauren, to assist students who would not otherwise be able to attend medical school due to the costs. Dr. Fite practiced internal medicine with his wife, Lauren, a physician assistant, in the Los Angeles, California, area until his retirement.
“Many of my former classmates had a diminished school experience, because they had to work when they needed to be spending the time learning medicine instead,” Dr. Fite said. “Many of them graduated from school saddled with debt, and unfortunately, this burden often caused them to choose jobs based on potential salary, rather than go into less-lucrative positions that were more in line with their passion and talent. It has been gratifying to see our first scholarship recipient, Wesley Slaven, thrive at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, knowing that he can put all of his energy into medicine, without significant financial challenge or distraction.”
Now, as a third-year medical student on the College of Medicine Knoxville campus, Slaven is at the top of his class.
“I went from one day not knowing how I was going to pay for something that I’d been working years to attain to the next day, them telling me they were going to help me pay for it – I couldn’t even believe it,” Slaven said. “I stay in touch with Dr. Fite and I tell him I don’t have the words to thank him enough. The fact that they thought I was worth that investment is very humbling.”
This story is from the most recent issue of Medicine magazine.