Why It Matters
Past recipients of the David Calkins Memorial Scholarship describe attending the IHI National Forum as a career-defining experience.
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Calkins Scholarship: How Students Can Win Their Way to the IHI National Forum

By Kimberly Mitchell | Thursday, September 11, 2014

Each year, the David Calkins Memorial Scholarship for IHI’s National Forum is awarded to one student who demonstrates a strong interest in health care improvement. To date, six students have been awarded the Calkins Scholarship. In this blog post by IHI Marketing & Communications Project Assistant Lilly Stairs, learn more about past scholarship recipients and how you can apply for the 2014 scholarship.

In 2009, medical school student Saranya Loehrer sat on the IHI National Forum shuttle bus and suddenly realized she was sitting across from IHI Senior Fellow Dr. Roger Resar, one of the pioneers in health care quality improvement.  She had a deep admiration for his work. Saranya mustered up the courage to introduce herself and her bravery paid off. Dr. Resar shared his contact information and offered to serve as her mentor.

In 2012, MBA candidate Monica Vanbuskirk was on the IHI National Forum shuttle bus chatting with a fellow passenger about her impending move to Colorado. Overhearing the conversation, a gentleman sitting behind her (who turned out to be IHI faculty member Dave Munch) exclaimed his love for the state. A health care consultant in Denver, he shared his contact information with Monica and offered his perspectives on health care in the region. This information later gave Monica a competitive edge when interviewing for jobs when she moved to her new home state.

What did these two women have in common other than extraordinary shuttle bus experiences? They were both winners of the annual David Calkins Memorial Scholarship, IHI’s tribute to a beloved physician, teacher, and health care improvement champion who was an IHI Senior Fellow until his untimely death in 2006. Each year the Calkins Scholarship gives one student the opportunity to attend the IHI National Forum General Conference.

As part of the Calkins Scholarship process, applicants must submit a 500-word essay on an improvement project they would like to undertake or have already completed. When asked if the time she took to write an essay and submit an application was worth the effort, Monica replied that winning the scholarship gave her an unparalleled experience. About her experience attending the Forum, she remarked, “I was incredibly heartened to be around people who think like me — people who want to apply structured solutions to improving health care, who have passion but who also have intelligence.”

When asked about her first Forum experience, Saranya remarked that she believes students are uniquely able to soak up the seemingly endless learning opportunities the Forum provides. “In many ways,” she noted, “students and residents are ideal improvers as they are less likely to be mired in the status quo or fall victim to the ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’ mentality. Coupling that fresh perspective with improvement skills can create powerful assets for an organization.”

For both of these Calkins Scholarship recipients, their experiences at the National Forum helped further define their career paths. Saranya had been on track to become a practicing physician, but her time at the Forum led her to focus more squarely on quality improvement. She now works at IHI as the Director of Transitions Programs. Monica came from the business world and had worked everywhere from NBC to ESPN. Her experience at the Forum reaffirmed that she was making the right choice to pursue a career in health care. She wanted to find ways to apply for-profit business techniques to the non-profit, health care world. She now works in business development at Denver Health.

From valuable networking opportunities to interactive learning with the world’s health care leaders and innovators, scholarship winners walk out of the National Forum with a wealth of knowledge and resources at their disposal and an ignited passion to make an impact. If you’re a full-time student, don’t miss out on this opportunity. Apply for the 2014 David Calkins Memorial Scholarship today!

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