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Scholarship fund created to keep medical students in WNY

Hoping to offset physician shortages in certain specialties, a group of doctors here has created a scholarship to encourage medical school students to stay in Western New York after they graduate.

The Western New York Medical Scholarship Fund recently awarded its first three recipients a minimum of $30,000 each annually for four years of education at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

The award winners must demonstrate financial need, graduate from a high school in one of the eight counties of Western New York, attend UB medical school and agree to practice in the region for an unspecified number of years.

The first three recipients are James Miller, a graduate of Frontier High School; Gina Sparacino, a Kenmore East High School graduate; and Alyssa Volmrich, a graduate of Holy Angels Academy.

“Our goal is to keep more locally trained doctors in Western New York,” Dr. John J. Bodkin II, co-chairman and founder of the fund, said in a statement.

Bodkin, a family physician at Highgate Medical Group, said similar programs in other cities have been successful.

“We felt that if we could offer scholarships to Western New York students who went to high school here and have established family ties here, and then offer incentives, such as mentoring by local doctors, we could influence them to stay and practice here after graduation and residency,” he said.

The fund’s goal is to raise enough money to sustain six to 10 scholarships a year over the next decade.

Organizations that have contributed a full scholarship include the Catholic Health System, Erie County Medical Center, HealthNow New York, Independent Health, Kaleida Health, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and West-Herr Automotive Group, as well as the UB medical school and the UB Medical Alumni Association.

Contributors to the fund’s endowment include Amherst Ear Nose and Throat, Great Lakes Medical Imaging, Highgate Medical Group, Nephrology Associates of WNY, Northtowns Cardiology, Dr. Gerald Sufrin, WNY Urology Associates, Windsong Radiology Group and David M. Zebro, a principal of Strategic Investments & Holdings.

The UB medical school requires that applicants must be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident of the country.