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Stamatakis Golf Classic raises $269,750 for medical school scholarships

July 22, 2010

184 golfers teed off and enjoyed a sunny day at Philadelphia Cricket Club, in Flourtown, Pa., on July 19. Their generosity supports a scholarship fund in the name of Drexel University College of Medicine chairman Manuel Stamatakis. The scholarships benefit medical students with proven academic ability and financial need. This year’s recipients are Meghan Berkenstock, Vincent Carson, Michael Galabi, Beth Malsin, Akash Patel, Sugirdhana Velpari and Michael Wong.

“Having the opportunity to be involved in the education of our future doctors has been beyond rewarding and very moving. I genuinely believe in the scholarship process for medical students and realize the tremendous need we have for skilled and dedicated physicians in this country and throughout the nation,” says Stamatakis.

Co-chairs for this year’s golf classic were Richard V. Homan, MD, senior vice president for health affairs and Annenberg Dean at Drexel University College of Medicine; Michael P. Halter, CEO of Hahnemann University Hospital; and William R. Sasso, Esq., chairman of Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, LLP. The honorary co-chair for this year was Drexel University Interim President C.R. “Chuck” Pennoni.

2010 Manuel N. Stamatakis Medical Scholars

Stamatakis Scholars

Meghan Berkenstock

The summer before she started college, Meghan Berkenstock’s life took a new direction. Because of the strong cultural roots of her family, Meghan had planned to major in international relations and aspired to work in the Slovak Embassy in Washington, D.C. However, with the diagnosis of cancer in her 11-year-old cousin, Rachel, plans changed. In the following weeks,Meghan began to take biology classes in an attempt to understand what caused Rachel’s illness. In the process, an unwavering interest in medicine was born.

The road to medical school was not without sacrifice and hard work. While completing her bachelor’s degrees in history and behavioral neuroscience at Lehigh University, Meghan worked full time, and was active on campus as a resident adviser. In 2003, she was crowned Miss Pennsylvania Slovak Heritage Queen (having entered to honor her grandparents’ memory), and then competed in the 2004 Miss Czech-Slovak USA pageant.

Meghan continues to excel in her studies and be involved at the College of Medicine, where she founded the Hematology-Oncology Interest Group to honor Rachel, and to raise cancer awareness and money for research in the Greater Philadelphia community. Meghan is looking forward to applying for a residency in ophthalmology and eventually establishing a practice in Pennsylvania.

Vincent Carson

Vincent Carson was inspired to become a physician by his little sister, Vanessa, who has Down syndrome. Growing up with Vanessa has taught him about the struggles that a person with special needs endures on a daily basis. His parents taught him about the meaning of love by their display of constant patience and advocacy for Vanessa. Through these experiences, he has learned to value each person, despite disability or illness. He believes that the purpose of medicine is not just to cure disease, but also to help patients deal with disease, especially if a cure is not available.

Vincent obtained a B.S. in biochemistry and molecular biology at the Pennsylvania State University. He then studied physiology in graduate school at Penn State before he decided to go to medical school. Vincent is currently a fourth-year medical student and is going to specialize in pediatric neurology and possibly neurodevelopmental disabilities. He wants to help kids with disabilities live and thrive within the context of their disability.

Like several other students at Drexel University College of Medicine, Vincent is a non-traditional student. He is married to a very supportive wife and is the father of two young boys. He looks forward to challenges and joys as both a physician and a parent.

Michael Galabi

When Michael Galabi entered college, medical school was always something he thought about. Seeing his sister, who is four years older, go through the rigors of medical school, he knew it was a tough road and that you had to love it. As college continued,Michael knew he wanted something in healthcare, so he entered the pharmacy program. This program provided a great foundation for medical education; however, he craved something more. During the last year of his pharmacy program, Michael had the opportunity to rotate in various areas in the hospital, such as the medical intensive care unit. Once he saw how the doctors treated patients and how rewarding it was, it reignited his interest in medicine and solidified his desire to go to medical school and become a competent and compassionate physician.

Now entering his fourth year of medical school,Michael knows that he is exactly where he is supposed to be. In this respect he feels very fortunate and blessed. Michael is very eager to go into the field of surgery. He has always enjoyed working with his hands, and being able to help patients treat and cure their health issues is an important and exciting aspect for him. Born and raised in New Jersey,Michael looks forward to continuing to serve the tri-state area upon graduation.

Beth Malsin

Beth Malsin is in her fourth year of medical school. In the past three years, she has had an amazing range of experiences: from being a peer mentor for other Drexel students to learning and helping at the Philadelphia Center for Grieving Children to being an intern in the Bridging the Gaps Community Health Internship Program. Beth’s favorite activity was serving as a student coordinator and volunteer for the Streetside Clinic, where Drexel medical students help provide medical services for homeless and disadvantaged people in North Philadelphia.

Beth received her undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Minnesota. During her sophomore year, she was fortunate enough to study in Australia, where she took courses about the Australian and Aboriginal culture. In studying and working with Aborigines, Beth realized she wanted to pursue a career in healthcare. She also credits her work in an immunology lab studying lupus with piquing her interest in how bench-top science can be combined with clinical medicine, something she hopes to continue to apply in the future. Though she remains undecided in which field of medicine she will apply for residency, she has built a strong foundation to begin to reach her goal of excelling in delivering care to those who need it most.

Akash Patel

In 2009, Akash Patel received his bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering as one of only two students in the accelerated BS/MD program in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science & Health Systems at Drexel. As an undergraduate, Akash played an active role in biomedical engineering research, and as a medical student, he has continued to follow his passion in cardiac tissue engineering as a summer research fellow in the College of Medicine’s Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery.

Akash was a founding committee member of Drexel University’s annual Relay for Life, a fundraising event benefiting the American Cancer Society that has raised more than $100,000 in three years. Now entering his second year of medical school, Akash plans to continue to provide leadership support for the charitable event as well as initiate similar events that connect students with the community to raise public awareness and support for important issues in healthcare.

Akash is the first son of immigrant parents and is the first member of his family to attend medical school. He aspires to use his engineering and medical backgrounds to develop innovative advances focused on improving healthcare in underserved communities such as the one in Vadodara, India, where he lived for most of his early childhood.

Sugirdhana Velpari

From a young age, Sugirdhana Velpari was exposed to the suffering and hardships endured by unfortunate victims of illnesses in India. Over the years, his summer trips overseas have given him the opportunity to encounter destitute, healthcare-deficient people whose next meal often comes as a surprise. These events portrayed to him the importance of healthcare and the power of medicine.

Sugirdhana decided to begin his career dream of becoming a doctor by forgoing his senior year of high school to enter Drexel’s BS/MD program affiliated with West Chester University. He received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry-biology from West Chester and is a member of the fourth-year class at Drexel University College of Medicine. He is the second son of his immigrant parents to attend the College of Medicine.

Based on his experience of undergraduate studies and medical school, Sugirdhana is planning on entering internal medicine. He enjoys the diversity of problems that are seen, the ability to care for the patient as a whole, and the myriad amounts of patient-physician interactions. He believes this field will allow him to utilize his strengths of perseverance and kindness, while elaborating on the knowledge he needs to grow as a person in order to benefit others.

Michael Wong

Michael Wong’s passion for medicine stemmed from his admiration and jealousy towards the physicians caring for his mother and her end-stage pulmonary fibrosis during his high school years. Michael easily grew jealous of the physicians’ knowledge and abilities as he found himself helpless to care for his mother, but his admiration for their compassion, professionalism, and support left an overwhelming and everlasting inspiration that eventually changed his life.

After his mother’s death and living eight years overseas in Taiwan, Michael, with high ambition and motivation, returned to the United States to find himself witnessing the struggles of the U.S. immigrant life as he reunited with his biological father. His father’s unfortunate life story is common in the underserved immigrant communities. Michael especially noticed the great discrepancies in healthcare use and availability in this population, and ever since then, he has been committed to promoting health and medical services in these communities.

Michael’s passion for people and medicine has grown and strengthened in medical school. Now a fourth-year medical student, he is excited about the knowledge and skills that he has gained so far and looks forward to residency and beyond. Michael always keeps his memories, motivations, and goals close to heart, and strives to become the best physician he can be.