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Class of 1959 alumna’s annual gifts support public health students beyond the classroom

February 08, 2016

Seven students enrolled in the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Master of Public Health degree program were given the opportunity to attend three national academic conferences in 2015, thanks to annual gifts from Class of 1959 alumna and legacy donor Ann Lewicki, M.D., M.P.H.

Dr. Lewicki’s gifts provided funds for professional memberships and conference fees for students to present at the American Public Health Association’s Annual Meeting and Exposition in Chicago, the American Association for Cancer Research Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved, in Atlanta, and the National HIV Prevention Conference, also in Atlanta.

Dr. Lewicki, a retired radiologist, was already ensuring scholarly achievement in Public Health through an estate gift that will establish a generous endowment in support of the Public Health Sciences program, but she wanted to witness the impact her philanthropy could have on WSU students today. Investments like hers provide tangible benefits to students, enhance research and education, spark collaboration and promote an atmosphere of excellence.

Bhavyata Patel, M.D., is one student benefitting from Dr. Lewicki’s commitment.

“Attending the American Public Health Association meeting provided me the wonderful opportunity to broaden my knowledge and network in the public health sciences,” she said.

The Michigan native earned a medical degree from another university, but turned to the School of Medicine’s Public Health Practice concentration to fulfill her dream of serving as a health administrator and practitioner. She expects to graduate in May and hopes to use her public health education to enhance her skills as a physician, understanding the contextual influences of individual and population health, public policy and patient care.

“I am grateful that Dr. Lewicki provided me the opportunity to interact and learn from other public health professionals,” Dr. Patel said.

Dr. Lewicki earned a Master of Public Health degree from Harvard University’s School of Public Health while on sabbatical in 1976.

“That training made it possible for me to serve as a part-time consultant to the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare for a while, work that I enjoyed tremendously,” she said.

She was born in Poland and migrated to the U.S. with her family at age 19. She was one of only two women in her graduating Class of 1959.

“The Wayne State University School of Medicine provided me a strong clinical experience, and I liked that it was an urban environment. I want to do my part to ensure this opportunity for students today, because Wayne State opened a door to a fantastic career,” she said.

During her radiological academic career, Dr. Lewicki worked at Stanford University, Harvard Medical School-Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and George Washington University, always with a focus on gastrointestinal imaging and a special interest in teaching. She was a founding member of the Society of Gastrointestinal Radiologists and of the American Association for Women Radiologists. She was made a Fellow of the American College of Radiology in 1981.

The WSU Master of Public Health program, administered by the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences, prepares graduates to apply evidence-based knowledge from behavioral and social sciences, biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental health and health care organization to understand and improve the health of the public, use appropriate research and analytical strategies to address public health issues, and communicate public health principles and findings to professional and community audiences.

Public Health student Fatema Shafie-Khorassani, an inaugural member of the new MPH biostatistics concentration, is especially thankful for opportunities like attending the APHA meeting, letting her apply and expand the theoretical knowledge from her coursework. “After graduating, I hope to continue working in academic public health research, before eventually aiming for a Ph.D. in biostatistics, and attending this conference gave me the opportunity to explore my options and learn more about what I need to do to achieve my goals,” she said.

Dr. Lewicki’s gifts to WSU – and the student beneficiaries – are strong examples of the vital importance of Pivotal Moments: Our Campaign for Wayne State University. Student success and achievement is one of four primary areas of strategic importance for the campaign. Funds raised during the Pivotal Moments campaign provide immediate resources to support students, faculty and research, with an additional goal of securing future moments through permanent endowment funding.

“I cannot say enough how appreciative we are of Dr. Lewicki’s gifts and other donor contributions,” said Tsveti Markova, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences. “No matter how big or small, their investment in our future generation has tremendous impact. It provides our students with opportunities otherwise not available to them. I also believe these donor gifts set an example to not only the beneficiaries, but to all our students, teaching them the spirit of generosity and commitment to the profession.”  

For students at the School of Medicine in particular, giving provides academic and professional enrichment opportunities to help define professional values while gaining knowledge. Elyse Schultz is a M.D./M.P.H. dual-degree student at WSU, and attended the APHA conference and the National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta through Dr. Lewicki’s program gift.

“Both experiences were inspiring. It was exciting to broaden my perspective on what public health is, does and can do. I had my first oral presentation on a panel. I am so grateful for the support that provided me these amazing experiences,” Schultz said. “Knowing how impactful gifts can be for student-learners, I look forward to ‘paying it forward’ when I am in the position to do so.”