USC School of Medicine Greenville dean and wife invest in students – and scholarships

GREENVILLE, S.C. – Forty years before he was dean of the new University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville, Jerry Youkey, M.D., was a med student working three jobs to help pay for his medical education. In the years since, medical school costs have soared, with schools vying to recruit the best and brightest students through competitive scholarships.

The school, a joint effort between USC and Greenville Health System, has seen its applicant rates skyrocket. The quality, diversity and commitment of the applicants are “absolutely extraordinary,” said Youkey – but more than two-thirds of them receive competing offers from other medical schools.

“As one of the nation’s newest med schools, we do what we can to help ‘seal the deal’ with the best of our applicants,” said Youkey. “We have their attention, but closure depends on our ability to offer them competitive scholarship support. And we won’t have loyal committed alumni able to help for at least another two or three decades.”

To help make USC School of Medicine Greenville more competitive, Youkey and wife Sharon established an $800,000 scholarship fund. The gift will fund five full-tuition scholarships over the next 20 years, creating a legacy that will live on for generations and fully support the education of five physicians over the course of the trust.

The scholarship gift was announced by USC President Harris Pastides at Saturday’s Experience the Dream gala, a sold-out event that helped raise an additional $572,000 for scholarships and awards for the medical school. The Youkey gift brought the total to more than $1.4 million.

“It always holds extra meaning when one of our own contributes so generously on behalf of our students,” said Pastides. “At the USC School of Medicine Greenville, Dr. Jerry Youkey and Sharon Youkey believe in the importance of scholarship funding, which makes me believe in it even more.”

Said Youkey, a nationally recognized vascular surgeon and educator who helped spearhead creation of the Greenville med school, “It’s hard to be around this terrific group of students and not want to help them. How can we not support students in this way, especially when we know we, our children, and our grandchildren – all potential future patients – will benefit by helping these students complete their medical school education and showing them that we want them to stay in the Upstate?”

“Giving back is a tradition in our family. And Sharon and I want to ensure that the med school can continue to have financial support in its effort to recruit, reward and retain the best students in what I know to be one of the most innovative med schools in the country,” he said.

“It’s our passion to support this school and these students,” added Mrs. Youkey, a fixture at the medical school as the standardized patient educator for the Greenville HealthCare Simulation Center. “How can anyone work with these incredible students and not want to help?”

The Youkeys are themselves the parents of three smart, competent children who completed college educations and then graduate degrees in the fields of medicine, law and social work. Said Dean Youkey, “Sharon and I are painfully familiar with the cost of putting children through college and professional school – for both children and parents. Education is invaluable and vital, but there’s certainly a cost involved.”

USC and GHS recognized the need for scholarship support during the initial planning for the Greenville medical school, committing in perpetuity10 percent of tuition dollars to scholarship support. But that 10 percent set-aside provides only half of the necessary scholarship dollars, thus requiring a private or community match. The Youkeys said they hoped their gift would serve as a catalyst to spark creation of a visionary scholarship endowment that would help recruit and retain top students at the USC Greenville medical school. Early support has already come from the Charles D. Walters Family Foundation and James T. Pearce Sr. and late wife Ellis “Kit” Pearce, who gave $1 million gifts.

“We must be competitive – or, despite the incredible facilities, the awesome technology and the extraordinary education and training we offer – we will not be the first choice of the most desirable applicants,” said Youkey.

Almost $3.5 million has been given in scholarship support since the school launched its charter class in 2012. These gifts range in size from $1 million given by “million dollar club” donors to those contributing $250 for an engraved brick paver given in honor or memory of a loved one. The commemorative bricks are being installed in perpetuity at the GHS Health Sciences Building, which houses the USC School of Medicine Greenville. Significant support has also come from community members such as C. Dan and Tammy Adams, Ray and Katherine Williams and the John I. Smith Charities.

“We are blessed to have such strong community support from people who are stepping forward to support medical student scholarship in the hopes strengthening the physician base in South Carolina and improving the health of our citizens,” said Youkey. “Community support has been essential since GHS opened in 1912 and continues to be even more important 102 years later.”

More than 2,700 students have applied for the 75 positions in the incoming class.

Hailed as a “new school of thought,” the school’s vision is to create a different type of physician capable of leading and participating in the transformation of America’s healthcare delivery system. Students at the USC School of Medicine Greenville receive clinical training across all four years of medical school, breaking from traditional curriculums that have two years of lecture followed by two years of clinical training. The innovative curriculum, which includes emergency medical technician training for students, has drawn national attention.

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About the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville

The USC School of Medicine Greenville is the result of a visionary partnership between the state’s largest university, the University of South Carolina (USC), and one of the largest health systems in the Southeast, the Greenville Health System (GHS). Located on the Greenville Memorial Medical Campus, the medical school welcomed its charter class of 53 medical students in fall 2012. The state’s third medical school, the USC School of Medicine Greenville is committed to transforming medical education and preparing the next generation of physicians prepared to lead and practice in a rapidly changing health care environment. Learn more at www.greenvillemed.sc.edu.

About Greenville Health System

Greenville Health System (GHS)—the largest not-for-profit healthcare delivery system in South Carolina—is committed to medical excellence through research, patient care and education. GHS offers patients an innovative network of clinical integration, expertise and technologies through its six medical campuses, tertiary medical center, research and education facilities, community hospitals, physician practices and numerous specialty services throughout the Upstate. The 1,358-bed system is home to 15 medical residency and fellowship programs and the state’s largest number of active clinical research trials—693. GHS is also home to the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville, a joint effort of USC and GHS. In 2013, GHS earned academic health system designation—one of 100 in the nation. Visit www.ghs.org for more information.