By | June 12, 2007 12:00 am

The University of Central Florida College of Medicine and two business leaders today announced a campaign to raise $6.4 million for student scholarships.

College Dean Deborah German came up with the novel approach to grant every admitted College of Medicine student in the inaugural class a guaranteed scholarship. If successful, the scholarships would cover tuition and living expenses for the length of the program, giving students the opportunity to study without worrying about debt. According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, UCF would be the first U.S. school of medicine to make such an offer.

Michael Minton, managing share holder for Dean Mead, and Rasesh Thakkar, senior managing director of the Tavistock Group, were the first to respond and donate to the scholarship fund. During a press conference, they announced that they each will fund one scholarship and challenged the Central Florida community to follow their example.

“When the opportunity to make a commitment to the University of Central Florida’s College of Medicine arose, it seemed like a natural fit for us,” Minton said. “In order for the dean to achieve her goal, we encourage other businesses to step up to the plate and help us fill the college’s goal of 40 scholarships for the charter class.”

The scholarships are essential for the success of school, the medical city at Lake Nona and the healthcare of Orlando’s present and future generations, German said.

“I came here because I felt the community’s strong desire to have a medical college,” German said. “I want Orlando to have the best medical school in the country. This community deserves that. Awarding scholarships to our students will give them the opportunity to study without the worry of financial burden and allow us to recruit the very best.”

The medical students will study, play and work here for four years — establishing deep roots, German said. They will be exposed to hospital partners and will be able to fully engage with the Central Florida medical community. They also will have the opportunity to participate in biomedical research to help find cures and alleviate suffering from human disease.

Thakkar, whose firm has shown support for the college since its inception by donating land at Lake Nona, is funding one scholarship.

“It is clear to us that a burgeoning medical city has excited and awakened the imagination of our community,” Thakkar said. “We need to rally to attract the best and the brightest for this first class of the UCF College of Medicine to ensure unparalleled success.”

The goal is to raise $6.4 million for the first class of 40 students. Each fully funded scholarship would provide $20,000 for tuition and $20,000 for living expenses for four years. This would allow UCF alumni to launch their medical careers without the $130,000 to $200,000 in medical school debt that many take on to finance their careers.

There are several ways to donate. Some contributions are eligible for state matching funds, which would establish endowed scholarships. For details, visit www.med.ucf.edu. The Web site allows community members to make donations electronically.

German and her team are developing the curriculum and are poring through resumes with the goal of hiring some of the finest administrators, faculty and staff in the country. Landing quality students would complete the recipe for success, she said. The Liaison Committee for Medical Education has already granted the college a site visit in December — the first major step toward accreditation.

The college has benefited from community support from the beginning. Tavistock donated land in Lake Nona and $12.5 million to build the school, and several donors collected millions of dollars,which allowed UCF to get matching state funds for construction of the UCF Health Sciences campus. Local hospitals have pledged to provide students residencies and other support.

The UCF Burnett College of Biomedical Sciences, California-based Burhnam Institute of Medical Research and a veterans’ hospital also will be located at Lake Nona,turning the area into a medical city.

“We’re building much more than a medical college,” German said. “We’re building a medical city — something I hope becomes a model for the nation in generating great advances in medicine and in serving its community

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