A sound investment
RSPH alumnus Michael Lindsay (left) "adopted" MD/MPH student Olivier Deigni to provide scholarship support and mentoring.
by Martha Nolan McKenzie
Alumnus Michael Lindsay adopts the notion of grounding future physicians in public health
Michael Lindsay, 91 MPH, believes in investments. Not necessarily the kind that require filling out a 1099 tax form each year, although he has filed his share of those. Lindsay is more interested in investing in youth. He regularly donates to the annual funds of various colleges and medical schools and contributes to the James Thornton Memorial Scholarship, awarded each year to a high school senior who lives in DeKalb County.
So when he was approached about sponsoring an MD/ MPH student through Emory's Adopt-a-Scholar Program, he didn't hesitate. "I thought it would be a great use of resources--investing in the education of young physicians who are pursuing additional training in public health," says Lindsay, the director of the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Emory and chief of the gynecology and obstetrics service at Grady Memorial Hospital.
The Adopt-a-Scholar Program offers alumni a way to honor their time at Emory with a named scholarship for a student who needs financial assistance with tuition. Last year, Lindsay "adopted" then fourth-year MD/ MPH student Demetrius Woods. This year he is sponsoring fourth-year MD/ MPH student Olivier Deigni.
Both students appreciated the financial help that came with the sponsorship. Although Emory's medical school provides significant scholarship funds for the MPH year to students seeking the dual degree, taking on an extra year of school while deferring a year of earning is a daunting financial hurdle. Every bit of help is precious.
"Medical school is very expensive. Public health school is very expensive," says Deigni. "I haven't had an income since I started medical school, and it's pretty difficult to get by. Dr. Lindsay's support means I have to take out fewer loans, and I'm very grateful for that."
But the students are perhaps equally grateful for the mentoring component of the program. Sponsors meet with their "adoptees" several times during the year to act as a sounding board and share their expertise.
Lindsay has quite a bit to share. He earned his MD from Yale, but after practicing at Grady, decided to return to school for his MPH. "I felt I lacked the skills I needed to conduct quality clinical research, and I thought an MPH would give me those skills," says Lindsay. "It turned out to be an important career move for me. It has enabled me to conduct clinical research I would not be able to do otherwise."
Lindsay's research focuses on adverse pregnancy outcomes, primarily hiv transmission from mother to infant. He has gained an international reputation for his expertise, and he weighs in on public policy advocacy for reproductive health locally, statewide, nationally, and internationally.
Woods had already begun working on a project to develop a new practice model for ob/gyns called obstetric hospitalists. These hospitalists would work only in the hospital, on shifts much like nurses, to relieve the often unpredictable work hours for obstetricians. "Since ob/gyn is Dr. Lindsay's field, he was able to give me a lot of perspective," says Woods, now an ob/gyn resident at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. "I was already leaning toward specializing in ob, but having the support of a faculty member of Dr. Lindsay's stature definitely pushed me in that direction."
Deigni, who entered his public health year this fall, is studying epidemiology--Lindsay's area of concentration at the RSPH. "I'm hoping Dr. Lindsay can help me decide what to focus on and what type of research projects to get involved in," says Deigni, who hopes to return to his home in West Africa to do research and clinical practice.
For his part, Lindsay is happy to have a chance to give back. "I got scholarships to get through college and medical school," he says. "I quickly realized that people who made the investment in my education didn't know me. They were supporting the concept of investing in young people. I've adopted that concept. The Adopt-a-Scholar Program helps fulfill one of my goals in life, which is to make a positive contribution in terms of improving health care. I try to do that in my personal actions but also in investing in future health care providers."