“I’ve been retired now for a couple of years, but have nothing but great memories. It was a wonderful, wonderful career,” said Grace Crittenden, an alumna of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM).
After graduating from JABSOM in 1976, Crittenden traveled to Houston, Texas to complete her internal medicine residency at Baylor College of Medicine. While she had hoped to return to Hawaiʻi to practice medicine, her career took her to California instead, where she would eventually retire from medicine.
Crittenden’s path to medicine started in the early 1970s when she was in graduate school at UH Mānoa studying physiology. Terence Rogers, former JABSOM dean, encouraged Crittenden to pursue a career in medicine.
“He was very encouraging, and he made that a goal,” Crittenden said of Rogers recruiting her to apply for JABSOM. “I think when he started as the dean, [the goal shifted] to provide more opportunities for women to go into medicine.”
Looking back, Crittenden felt grateful for her time at JABSOM, not only because more women were making their way into medicine. She was also grateful that she was able to pay for her medical school education.
“I loved medical school. It was a wonderful adventure. The medical school was relatively young at that point, and we were fortunate that we just paid graduate student fees,” Crittenden reflected. “It might have been out of my reach to go to medical school now.”
Contributing to alumni scholarship fund
She acknowledged that having little debt after graduating from JABSOM allowed her to focus on her work instead of on repaying loans. And although she never got a chance to practice medicine in Hawaiʻi, Crittenden does hope that current JABSOM students will get the chance—and without much debt.
One way Crittenden helps to make that possible is through contributions to the JABSOM MD Alumni Scholarship. The scholarship was created as a way for JABSOM alumni to give back to current JABSOM medical students. Criteria for applying for the MD Alumni Scholarship includes candidates who show financial need and have an intention to practice medicine in Hawaiʻi after completing their training.
The scholarship has been awarded to JABSOM students since 2009 with a total of between $10,000 –$20,000 typically awarded each year. In 2021–22, increased alumni support allowed for two students to be awarded $40,000 full-tuition scholarships. Another round of $40,000 scholarships was awarded to two more students in 2022–23, as well as smaller awards to other students.
The donations for the MD Alumni Scholarship still continue to grow, due in large part to the generosity of alumni, such as Crittenden, who encourages other alumni, young and old, to pay it forward.
“I just want to share that experience so they don’t get so burdened with so much debt,” she said. “It’s hard enough being a new doc, and having to worry about debt on top of that is just unimaginable to me. So I just think it’d be so much better if people could get out of medical school and become doctors and not have those financial worries or responsibilities.”
JABSOM’s class of 2023 reported graduating with a median medical school debt of $173,787.