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November 29, 2004

$3.5m in Gifts to Help Recruit
Minorities to Health Professions

Officials have announced that the University has received a total of $3.5 million in endowment gifts: $2 million from the Aetna Foundation to support the UConn Health Center’s Health Professions Partnership Initiative (HPPI) and $1.5 million from Aetna Chairman and CEO Dr. John W. Rowe, and his wife, Valerie, to fund the John and Valerie Rowe Health Professions Scholars Program.

The announcement was made at a press conference on Nov. 16 at the Health Professions Academy in Hartford.

The gifts are expected to be eligible for a match from the state of one dollar for every two dollars donated, under a program established by the state legislature. This would increase the value of the combined gifts to $5.25 million.

The Aetna Foundation’s endowment will provide long-term stability to the HPPI program, which will be renamed The Aetna Health Professions Partnership Initiative at the Health Center. The endowment from the Rowe Family Foundation will enrich the academic experience for underrepresented undergraduate students interested in the health professions.

Dr. Rowe is also chairman of the UConn Board of Trustees. Mrs. Rowe is an associate professor in the Graduate School of Education at Fordham University.

“We are grateful to Aetna and to Jack and Valerie Rowe for their support of the University and these important programs,” said University President Philip E. Austin. “It builds upon our efforts to continue to attract the state’s best and brightest young scholars to the University of Connecticut, and ensures that they are included in the ‘brain gain’ in the state of Connecticut.”

Dr. Rowe said, “These initiatives represent a multifaceted commitment to youth, education, and health. Aetna has been a part of the fabric of Connecticut for more than 150 years, and this is a perfect fit with our integrated business and philanthropic focus on reducing racial and ethnic disparities in health care. This initiative will enrich the diversity of Connecticut’s physicians and dentists, and ultimately lead to increased access to quality health care for the state’s diverse populations.

“Valerie and I are proud to personally support the work being done by UConn,” Rowe added. “We have spent a significant part of our lives in education, and understand the importance of opening doors to new ideas. This is an impressive program with ambitious goals for the future. Our hope is that this gift will help expand horizons for promising students.”

Dr. Marja Hurley, professor of medicine, associate dean, and director of Health Career Opportunity Programs, said the Aetna Health Professions Partnership Initiative is a comprehensive program of UConn and other Connecticut educational institutions that offers academic enrichment and support activities for underrepresented and disadvantaged students in Hartford-area middle and high schools.

The gifts from Aetna and the Rowes will benefit the following programs:

  • The Great Explorations middle school program, aimed at increasing students’ awareness of health professions and enhancing academic preparedness for entry into the Health Professions Academies.
  • The Health Professions Academies, which are small learning communities currently operating within Hartford’s Bulkeley and Weaver High Schools, where students receive further academic preparation and awareness of career options in health care.
  • The Jumpstart Program, which focuses on college preparation in order to strengthen academic skills and career awareness.
  • The Pre-College Enrichment Program, a summer program for incoming UConn freshmen interested in the health professions that helps them acclimate to a college campus and strengthen their academic skills.

Eligible candidates for the John and Valerie Rowe Health Professions Scholars Awards will be high school seniors planning to pursue health professions-related majors at UConn, who are at the top of their high school graduating classes, and meet the standards for admission to the Honors Program. Rowe Scholars will be selected, wherever possible, from among students participating in the HPPI program at Hartford-area high schools.

When fully funded, the Rowe endowment will provide $3,000 educational stipends to a select group of 12 entering students each year. Many of these students are expected to enroll in UConn’s combined bachelor/medical or bachelor/dental medicine degree program, which guarantees selected students admission to the UConn School of Medicine or School of Dental Medicine after completing their undergraduate degrees.

During their undergraduate studies, the Health Center provides these students with a variety of special seminars and health professions-related activities, including “mini” medical and dental school classes and “shadow days” with Health Center faculty members. They also receive mentoring and career advice from administrators, faculty, and medical and dental students.

Shadow days enable students to spend one day a month at the Health Center interacting with faculty in various learning activities, attending medical and dental school classes and special lectures, and accompanying hospital clinicians and research scientists in their normal activities.

The Rowe endowment also includes funding for an annual lecture series on critical topics in the health professions and for research fellowships so each student in the program can spend at least one summer learning about medicine or dental medicine. Working closely with faculty members, each student will commit approximately 30 hours per week to a research project in the health professions field, with 8 to 10 hours per week set aside for clinical experiences and other enrichment activities.