LEWISBURG, WV (WOAY) – The path to becoming a physician is a challenging one. For one student at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM), the financial hurdles that complicate that path became a little easier to navigate this year.
Matthew St. Jean was one of four 2020 recipients of a $20,000 Bridging the Dream Scholarship for Graduate Students from the consumer lending company Sallie Mae. Nearly 5,000 students nationwide applied for the scholarship, which is awarded to students who excel academically, demonstrate leadership and participation in school and community activities, and creatively describe their journey to and goals for graduate school.
St. Jean, a WVSOM Class of 2022 student on rotation at Charleston Area Medical Center in Charleston, W.Va., was this year’s only Bridging the Dream Scholarship recipient who is pursuing a medical degree. A former advanced emergency medical technician, St. Jean said the scholarship will make it easier to focus on academics rather than finances.
“One of the biggest stresses of medical school is that not only are you worrying about studying and passing tests, but you’re also worrying about how much money you can spend each day and how much you’ll have left at the end of the semester to bridge the gap until the next financial aid funds are dispersed,” he said. “A $20,000 scholarship will allow me to get out from underneath that burden earlier and pay off my loans quicker.”
St. Jean said that growing up in a small town in Maine and having limited financial resources, he never expected to have the opportunity to attend medical school. Having spent two post-college years working as many as 132 hours a week as an emergency worker and as a hospital transfer/access coordinator, he hopes to one day serve as an emergency medicine physician and medical director for an EMS agency.
“When I become a doctor, I want to take that knowledge back to the EMS field,” he said. “I’d like to be able to teach EMTs and paramedics and keep them up to date with the medical information they need. That’s where I came from, and those are my people.”
Lisa Spencer, WVSOM’s director of financial aid, said she was pleased that a WVSOM student was the recipient of such a competitive national scholarship. She pointed out that the scholarship is only one of the benefits Sallie Mae provides to those seeking advanced degrees.
“I’m very proud of Matthew for receiving this scholarship,” Spencer said. “It will greatly reduce his loan debt while attending WVSOM. In addition to the Bridging the Dream Scholarship for Graduate Students, Sallie Mae offers a great free online scholarship tool that can be found on their website. They’ve been helping students with not only loans but other opportunities for as long as I can remember during my 29 years of working in financial aid.”
The Bridging the Dream Scholarship for Graduate Students is open to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are college seniors, prospective graduate students or are currently enrolled at postsecondary graduate school and will be enrolled in graduate study at least half-time at an accredited graduate college or university for the entirety of an academic year. Students must have a minimum grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale to be considered.
Information on applying for a 2021 Bridging the Dream Scholarship for Graduate Students will be available in January.