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March 28, 2017

Medical students receive scholarships to help underserved patients

Michigan State University College of Human Medicine students Sarah Robbins and Rohit Abraham share a passion for helping underserved patients and both recently learned they will receive awards to help them realize that goal.

Robbins, a fourth-year student who will graduate in May, will receive a $120,000 Students to Service Scholarship from the National Health Service Corps for her commitment to work in an underserved community for three years.

Abraham, a third-year student, has been awarded a full-ride Zuckerman Fellowship to attend Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health for a Master of Public Health with a concentration in Health Policy, a major step toward his ultimate goal of helping large numbers of patients by directing public health policy.

“What I personally hope to do is practice clinical medicine for several years and then transition into a career that also combines public health administration,” Abraham said, a move that would allow him to guide public policy and improve health care for larger numbers of patients.

A native of India who came to this country at the age of 2, Abraham said he was moved by the poverty and health disparities he saw not only in India, but in the United States. After college, he taught in Detroit’s Denby High School under the Teach for America program.

Many of his students often missed classes due to personal and family health problems “because they didn’t have primary care doctors,” he said. “This experience shaped the rest of my life. I had the privilege of driving home (away from poverty) each day. My kids didn’t. It didn’t make sense to me.”

As a member of the college’s Flint-based Leadership in Medicine for the Underserved program, Abraham already has worked with vulnerable patients. Studying in Flint has given him “a ground view of public health,” said Abraham, who plans to apply for residencies in family medicine or emergency medicine.

For Robbins, the lure is to practice medicine in rural Michigan, specifically at one of five Federally Qualified Health Centers operated by Family Health Care in northern Michigan.

“Before I got the scholarship, I already planned on working in a Federally Qualified Health Center,” said Robbins, now completing her fourth year of medical school in Marquette under the college’s Rural Physician Program. “I’ve always wanted to do family medicine. The continuity of care really matters to me, and the longitudinal relationships. I’ve always loved that.”

Because of her strong interest in family medicine, Robbins was admitted to the college’s Integrated Medical School and Family Residency Program and after graduation, will begin a family medicine residency at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing.

After that, she expects to work at the Family Health Care clinic in Grant, Mich., a small town in Newaygo County.

“I’m in love with that clinic,” she said. “That’s where I want to be, because it’s such an underserved region.”

She traces her love of rural areas to her childhood, growing up in an old farmhouse in upstate New York. She plans on remaining in Michigan after completing her medical education.

“When I came to Michigan and saw the open fields and the tractors rolling down the roads, I fell in love with it,” she said. “I love the feeling I get when I’m in a rural area.”

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