A gift to the next generation

Twenty Pearls Foundation, Banks family continue the legacy of Cullen Banks, MD, by supporting future physicians.

By: Jessica Jinah Song

LaKay Banks knows why everyone liked her husband Cullen W. Banks, MD, so much.

“No one was too high or too low for my husband,” she said. “He was down to earth and treated everyone with respect.”

The sincerity that Banks, the first African American physician to have full hospital privileges in Alachua County, demonstrated is what inspired the Twenty Pearls Foundation Inc. to start a golf tournament five years ago.

“We started this tournament to thank Dr. Banks, who was an avid golfer, for blazing the trail in so many ways to improve the quality of life for all in the Gainesville and Alachua County community,” said Cynthia Moore Chestnut, PhD, president and CEO of the Twenty Pearls Foundation, and former Alachua County commissioner.

The foundation, which is the alumni association and charitable arm of the Mu Upsilon Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., makes yearly contributions to the Cullen W. Banks, MD, Scholarship Fund. The fund was established by the Alachua County Medical Society in 1998 to honor Banks’ achievements, and a scholarship is awarded every four years to a first-year UF College of Medicine student.

The foundation has awarded more than $15,000 in scholarships annually.

In July, members of the sorority, including LaKay Banks, visited the UF College of Medicine to present their annual gift and meet with Lauren Simmons, who was selected as the new Banks Scholar last year.

But this was no ordinary visit. The Banks family made a surprise gift, matching the Twenty Pearls Foundation’s donation.
“Knowing that there is a need, my family wanted to give,” said LaKay Banks, whose son Garry graduated from the UF College of Medicine in 1990. “I know Lauren’s aspiration and qualities and I cherish that.”

The donors’ hope is that Simmons and future recipients will become caring physicians who value genuine doctor-patient relationships.

“We want the recipient to know that there is a community who believes in and wholeheartedly supports her goal to become a physician,” Chestnut said.