Sarah Goodwin

Kathi Ovnic
Holly Korschun
May 7, 1999


With Jeff Beckman and Marisa Rogers, it's hard to know where to begin.

Both of these fourth-year students at the Emory University School of Medicine have not only excelled in their academic studies but also contributed so much to their school and the community. Between them, they've served as class officer, taught elementary and middle school children about AIDS, volunteered at a clinic that treats homeless patients, organized fundraising campaigns for the American Cancer Society, served as mentors for children in the Boys' and Girls' Club, raised issues of racial awareness on campus and chaired an organization that gives medical students an opportunity to volunteer in the Atlanta area.

That abbreviated list of their activities shows why Beckman and Rogers are the 1998-99 recipients of the Gaston Service Award at the School of Medicine. The award, which recognizes outstanding community service as well as accomplishments in scholarship and leadership, is named for J. Harper Gaston and his wife, Anne Elizabeth Gaston, themselves lifelong volunteers.

Beckman, a native of Lawrenceville, says scheduling is the key to fitting his volunteer activities around medical studies. At the medical school, he has been active in student government, serving as freshman class treasurer, sophomore class president and as a representative for the class on the Medical School Advisory Council.

He's tried to make the entrance to medical school an easier transition by organizing a roommate weekend before orientation that allows incoming Emory students to meet current students. He's also worked as a mentor with the school's Big Sib program, which pairs second- and first-year students for guidance. He will begin a transitional residency this summer at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Hospital in Denver.

Beckman also has been an active participant in the student-run Health Outreach Program, which Rogers co-chaired during her sophomore year. The group creates and organizes opportunities for students to get involved in their community, for example, offering chances to teach at local school and community programs as well as to work in clinics that serve the homeless. In fact, Rogers became so committed to one such clinic that she took on the role of clinic manager at the Open Door Community. She recruits and schedules volunteer physicians to staff the clinic, and she's found a job for first-year medical students: taking patient histories.

"This experience has been the most worthwhile service I've ever performed," she says.

Both Beckman and Rogers believe that service not only enhances the lives of those they serve but also enriches their own lives. Beckman describes his service activities as "humbling and rewarding at the same time." He believes community service sensitizes him to the needs of others and will make him a better physician. For example, on a recent visit with a homeless patient, Beckman took longer than usual to carefully stitch up the man's lacerated leg. When he finished the stitching, the very quiet patient rummaged in his bag to retrieve the only thing of value he owned to thank Beckman: a pair of jumper cables, a gift that still touches the young physician.

Rogers, who begins a residency this summer in medicine and primary care at Brigham and Women's Hospital (affiliated with Harvard University), has made a lifelong commitment to service. "True leadership comes from dedicating yourself to ideals that you believe will improve the well-being of those in your community," she says. "I feel we all have a responsibility to leave this world a better place."


(Written by Rhonda Mullen. This article originally appeared in the Winter 1999 issue of Emory Medicine magazine.)

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