From that point on, Bennett committed to supporting her medical school alma mater, from being a founding member of the George Harrell Club to sitting on the UF Medical Alumni Board. So, after learning about the UF College of Medicine’s Legacy Challenge, she once again committed by signing up to support scholarships.
“It’s exceedingly expensive to get a medical education,” says Bennett, who is sponsoring a medical student through a $20,000 gift dispersed in increments throughout a student’s four years of medical school. “Anything we can do to ease students’ financial burden and help them establish an attitude of giving back, I think will come back a thousandfold.”
Instilling this sense of philanthropy in the next generation is a priority for Bennett; after all, she was taught by the example her parents set throughout her childhood in rural West Virginia.
“Living on a coal miner’s salary, they didn’t have a lot, but what they had they shared,” she says. “I think I learned my lesson from them.”
When Bennett considered the kind of student she hoped to help through the sponsor-a-medical-student program, one key characteristic came to mind: compassion, a trait she believes differentiates physicians who connect with patients and their communities from those who simply practice the science of medicine.
In December, first-year medical student Jane Harrell was completing a family medicine preceptorship in Jacksonville when she learned she would receive a scholarship thanks to Bennett’s contribution.
“It was the best Christmas present,” says Harrell, who discovered a love of medicine through her volunteer work with Camp Boggy Creek, a year-round camp for children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses.
As passionate as she was about science and medicine, the financial challenge of attending medical school loomed overhead for the 23-year-old, who worked at Publix and UF Health Shands Hospital throughout her undergraduate studies to help pay for tuition.
In February, she got the opportunity to meet Bennett, who was in town for a UF basketball game, and thank her in person. While she hopes to keep in touch through letters, the aspiring pediatrician says she may never have the words to adequately describe what Bennett’s support means to her.
“Giving somebody a chance they might not think they have is amazing,” Harrell says. “I would love to do that for someone else someday.”