Building a Legacy of Excellence in Medical Education
For the late Mina Jo Powell, what began as an interest in medicine grew into a lifelong passion to improve the lives of others. Her name is known across The Florida State University and the Tallahassee community, and thanks to her generous planned gifts, Powell’s legacy of helping others and giving back lives on.
Powell enrolled at the Florida State College for Women in 1946, and four years later she graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the newly renamed Florida State University. She went on to earn her master’s degree in social work from Florida State in 1963. Throughout her life, Powell gave generously of her time, talent and treasure as a supporter of many Florida State academic and athletic programs.
Her dedication to the betterment of the community, especially the rural, elderly and underserved populations, culminated in planned gifts to the College of Medicine, which Powell identified as sharing her mission. Her planned gift establishing the Mina Jo Powell Fund for Excellence in Medical Education provides funds exceeding $3.3 million for the Mina Jo Powell Endowed Chair in Neuromuscular and Neurological Degenerative Diseases, the Mina Jo Powell Endowed Chair in Medical Education, and the Mina Jo Powell Endowed Fund for the Study of Health Issues Associated with Aging.
“As one of our founding donors, Mina Jo Powell set the bar with her generous support of this new community-based medical school and affirmed her trust in our unique mission,” College of Medicine Dean John P. Fogarty, M.D., said. “Our neuroscience research and geriatrics training programs, along with our student-focused activities, are secure thanks to her generosity.”
Powell’s dedication and support ensure the College of Medicine will be equipped to study neuromuscular and neurological disorders and aging while providing care to those who cannot afford it. Her gifts allow for innovative research of degenerative diseases at Florida State with the goal of better, healthier lives for all.
“It’s really important to have people like Mina Jo, who saw what her gift could do for a nascent college,” Fogarty said. “With her gift, which supports a neuroscience chair, a professorship at one of our regional campuses as well as funding for geriatrics research and education, she was leading the way and convincing a lot of people in this community that this really was something that was important to contribute to.”
From its beginning in 2000, the college’s unique mission and community-based model drew attention.
“From the very beginning we were set apart and focused, and visitors say we are the most mission-focused of any medical school in the country,” Fogarty said. “With the tremendous changes in science over the last 50 years we’ve seen medicine tend to move much more toward disease-focused as opposed to patient-focused. We train exemplary physicians who are focused on their communities — particularly the rural communities, elderly communities and those communities who are underserved.”
And in order to produce the best medical students in the country, you need the best medical professionals to teach and train them. This aspect is a key to one of Powell’s gifts, which established the Mina Jo Powell Chair in Neuromuscular and Neurological Degenerative Diseases.
“The Mina Jo Powell Chair will bring us intellectual power, reputation for FSU, treatments for many people in the state of Florida and economic advantages,” said Dr. Richard Nowakowski, Randolph L. Rill Professor and Chair in the College of Medicine. “We are going to be able to have National Championship scientists who come to us from the best schools, with the best money, resources and minds to tackle problems related to human health. So it’s a win-win situation — all thanks to the generosity of people like Mina Jo Powell.”
Tallahassee Regional Campus Dean Dr. Mel Hartsfield agrees.
“We are proud of our faculty, who are full-time, practicing physicians in the community,” Hartsfield said. “They are part of the reason our students’ outcomes are incredible.”
The outcomes Hartsfield mentions include student placement into the best residency programs in America and into programs where they can fulfill critical needs.
“As we go forward, the big concern in health care is access to care, and if providers will exist, particularly in primary care specialties,” Hartsfield said. “This year, from the Tallahassee campus, of the 15 students, 15 are going in to primary care—something we’re very proud of and something we stress. We can count on these students to help us and our families in our hour of need.”
The Florida State University College of Medicine’s program is unique in its aim to give these future physicians an opportunity to serve and practice in their communities while they earn their medical degrees.
“Our students go to one of six campuses — Tallahassee, Pensacola, Ft. Pierce, Sarasota, Orlando, Daytona Beach — and become members of the community,” Hartsfield said.
Hartsfield added that unlike many traditional medical school models, Florida State’s medical students have access and experience working in the outpatient arena. A longitudinal class where students follow primary care patients throughout an entire year and a required program in geriatrics in students’ fourth years gives College of Medicine students an edge as they compete for residencies.
And for these students, like fourth-year medical student Ashley Lucke, Florida State’s student-centered approach sets it apart.
Lucke’s journey to medical school began as a young girl. When she was seven years old, Lucke saved her younger brother from drowning in a neighbor’s swimming pool by pulling him out of the water.
“There was an instantaneous shift in my thinking that day,” Lucke said. “I wasn’t even aware of it as a 7-year-old, but from that moment I knew I existed on this earth to be a doctor, and that was the only possible thing I could do.”
Lucke continues, “I think everyone wants to affect change in the world. I went to medical school not just to make a difference, but to be the difference. To me, that means being the person who goes in to the ER to tell the spouse ‘you have an hour to get dinner before your husband will make it up to the floor, so you have time.’ It means going in to a patient’s room to silence an obnoxiously beeping IV pump, even if it’s not my patient, so that he or she doesn’t have to listen to that ring in their ear. It means spending the extra five minutes to print out lab results of a patient I’m about to discharge, so when he or she visits a primary care physician, that doctor will know what happened. It means listening compassionately to the alcoholic patient in the ER with pancreatitis—for the sixth time. To me, being the difference means having empathy, compassion and understanding even when it’s not easy.”
Lucke knew of only one place where she could grow into that type of physician.
“All medical schools can teach their students about medications and diagnostic tools,” Lucke said, “but I wanted a school that would teach me how to care for people and how to be the difference. I found that at FSU.”
Lucke will graduate with an M.D. after her name in May 2011. In her time at The Florida State University College of Medicine, she has served as one of only six students nationwide on the national medical student subcommittee for the American Academy of Pediatrics; served as class president for two years; been an inductee to the Gold Humanism honor society, which honors medical students who show compassion and empathy; been an inductee into Alpha Omega Alpha honor society for medical students; and served on several committees university-wide and within the College of Medicine.
She will also graduate with $193,000 in student loans.
“To help defray the costs of medical school I have been the recipient of several scholarships, including the Charlotte Edwards Maguire and Ocie Harris scholarships in medicine,” Lucke said. “The financial generosity of these and other donors through the Foundation and College of Medicine has helped in so many tangible ways: for repairs when my car died right before my board exam second year; by helping my husband relocate so he could live with me in Tallahassee through medical school; by providing for three month-long rotations at the top children’s hospitals in the country in the past six months; and by helping fund my 16-program, three-month interview process.”
Lucke’s dream will quickly become her reality, as she will soon be placed into a residency in pediatrics.
She notes that a physician generally sees 30 patients a day, five days a week, 50 weeks each year. Over a 40-year-career, a physician will have more than 300,000 patient encounters.
“If you multiply that by the 120 people in my class, every year my graduating class will affect millions of lives,” Lucke said. “I think about the extraordinary people who donated money to create mine and other scholarships. They surely have taught me a lesson in efficiency, because they changed the lives of millions of people in the seconds it took to write a check and sign their name. For this I want to say thank you for the lives you’ve changed, and thank you for donating to the College of Medicine.
“When I entered the College of Medicine, I vowed to give back in the only way I knew how — by being the best medical student I could be,” Lucke said. “I think it is a fundamental human need to know our lives were lived with some purpose, and our existences improved the world,” Lucke said. “Through gifts from generous donors like Mina Jo Powell, our purpose is made clearer and more accessible.”
In February 2011, the fifth annual Westcott Legacy Society event was held at the Alumni Center Grand Ballroom and featured a program highlighting the College of Medicine and, specifically, how the late Mina Jo Powell’s gifts have positively impacted the College’s students and faculty. Read more about the event and view a slideshow.