Students meet their benefactors at Southwestern Medical Foundation’s annual scholarship luncheon.

The daughter of an Oklahoma City plastic and reconstructive surgeon, Rachel Hein wanted to steer clear of a medical career. It wasn’t until her second year of undergraduate studies at the University of Oklahoma, however, that she realized she couldn’t escape her destiny.

While enrolling for courses in her declared major of chemical engineering, she thought, “This isn’t what I want to do.” She changed her major on the spot to chemistry and decided to cast her sights on medical school, specifically UT Southwestern Medical School.

“I realized how many lives were affected by my dad’s work, and I suddenly knew that the variety of medical conditions that can be improved through plastic and reconstructive surgery truly made it a quality-of-life specialty,” said Ms. Hein, now in her second year at UT Southwestern Medical School.

Friends and donors at Wednesday’s Southwestern Medical Foundation scholarship luncheon know a little about improving and affecting lives as well. This year alone, they provided $245,000 in scholarship funds to 197 medical students, dozens of whom were at the annual luncheon to thank their benefactors for the opportunity to pursue their dreams of becoming doctors.

Wes Norred, UT Southwestern vice president for student and alumni affairs, said those who support students are essentially saying to them: “I want to recognize you for what you’ve already accomplished in your life. I want to affirm that you will continue on a path to success. I want to invest in you. All you have to do is keep doing what you’re doing.”

The funds provided for student scholarships enable UT Southwestern to attract the best and brightest students, he said.

“You have invested wisely,” he told the more than 90 people in attendance.

Southwestern Medical Foundation has been supporting student scholarships at the medical center for more than 60 years and currently holds more than $5.3 million in endowment funds for their support. Some scholarships are need-based, some merit-based, Mr. Norred said, but all inspire each student recipient to reach his or her goal of becoming a “superb physician.”

Ryan Thorpe, a third-year student, expressed not only his own gratitude for his medical school scholarship, but also the appreciation of his wife and his 19-month-old son. “We are grateful,” he told the guests at the luncheon, “for the sacrifices you’ve made.”

Mr. Thorpe was an accounting graduate at Brigham Young University, when he abruptly changed directions on his career path. “I was sitting in an orientation for the master’s accounting program, and I thought, ‘I can’t do this for the rest of my life!’ I got up and signed up for an anatomy class, and I’ve never looked back.”

William T. Solomon, chairman of the board of Southwestern Medical Foundation, said it would be interesting to see how far these gifts take the medical students in the next 25 years or so. “We have high hopes and expectations for your futures. How proud we are of you.”

Scholarships to UT Southwestern students have been provided over the years by many generous donors, families and friends, from such funds as the: Dr. E.H. Cary Scholarship Fund; Martha and Robert Click Scholarship Fund; Frances B. Conroy Scholarship Fund; Dorothy R. Cullum Scholarship Fund; Felix B. and Josephine I. Goldman Trust Fund; Dr. J.A. Majors Scholarship Fund; Mr. and Mrs. M.A. McBee Scholarship Fund; Dr. M. Hill and Dorothy Metz Scholarship Fund; Morning Star Family Foundation Scholarship Fund; Shirley P. Pollock Scholarship Fund; Ralph B. Rogers Scholarship Fund; Harold B. and May E. Sanders Scholarship Fund; Anne C. Schoellkopf Scholarship Fund; Jay Simmons Scholarship Fund; Dr. Richard M. Smith Memorial Scholarship Fund; Alayne and Charles C. Sprague, M.D., Scholarship Fund; S. Edward Sulkin, M.D., Scholarship Fund; Judith R. Tycher Scholarship Fund; and Dr. Bryan Williams Medical Student Scholarship Fund.