Tucson Medical Student Wins $30,000 Scholarship

Second-year medical student, Gabrielle “Gabi” Mintz, in the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson, has been awarded the Shirley D. Curson Medical Student Scholarship, a two-year scholarship that provides $15,000 a year for a student’s third and fourth years of medical school.

“This scholarship is an honor she richly deserves,” said Michael Abecassis, MD, MBA, dean of the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson. “It’s reassuring knowing there are medical students like Gabi, who I’m sure will continue to provide leadership and teach others to be compassionate caregivers like her.”

The Curson scholarship is a merit-based award that recognizes Jewish students with a history of social or civic responsibility, community involvement and service. The UArizona Hillel Foundation, an on-campus Jewish organization that encourages student leadership and initiative, has offered the scholarship to second-year students in the UArizona Colleges of Medicine in Tucson and Phoenix every other year since 2013.

“I feel very honored, very grateful, and I am just excited about it,” Mintz said of receiving the scholarship. “I feel deeply connected to Hillel and the Jewish community. My grandmother is a rabbi. I grew up in this community.”

Mintz is from Rochester, Minnesota, and lived near the Mayo Clinic. Her grandfather was a physician, as is an uncle, so she always considered a career in medicine, though she originally gravitated toward laboratory work. She attended Vassar College in New York, where she double majored in neuroscience and Hispanic studies. Her interest in neuroscience originated from the fact her grandmother suffers from Parkinson’s disease and her grandfather died of an undiagnosed brain affliction.

While she was pursuing her bachelor’s degree, she volunteered as a math tutor for high school students. Most of the students were Spanish-speaking and from low-income families, and she found her role was as much mentor as tutor.

“A lot of these kids were struggling with much bigger life things than just figuring out how to do algebra. That position definitely became more of mentorship – counseling, being a friendly ear, trying to help kids figure out how to navigate life and apply to college or various other programs,” Mintz said.

After graduation, she worked in a neuroscience lab at the University of California, San Francisco for two years. Realizing she enjoyed human interaction more than being a bench scientist, she applied to medical school.

At the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson, she was matched with surgical oncologist James Warneke, MD, as a mentor and was fortunate enough to scrub in with him on surgeries since her first year. That experience sparked an interest in surgery, she said, in addition to neuroscience. She anticipates the clinical rotations she is starting this year will help her decide on a career direction.

“They say that you don’t really know until you finish your rotations and I’ve just started those, so we’ll see where it takes me,” Mintz said.

In addition to her studies, Mintz has kept active with the Commitment to Underserved Peoples (CUP) Program, including serving as a patient coordinator with the Women’s Clinic, a volunteer with the Shubitz Family Clinic and a scribe for the Asylum Clinic. She also worked with a local refugee shelter run by Casas Alitas to aid immigrants released locally by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“She has done all of that, on top of being a co-director with MedPride and helping to update language in the college’s curriculum covering LGBTQ matters,” said Michelle Blumenberg, executive director of the Hillel Foundation. “She’s an all-around remarkable young woman who understands patient care and that a patient is not just about what they present with their medical issues. She will be an amazing addition to the medical community.”

Hillel Foundation scholarship committee chair Nancy Koff, a retired senior associate dean at the College of Medicine – Tucson, lauded Mintz for her social justice outlook and commitment to the underserved.

“Gabi is a woman of compassion, altruism and leadership, and she’s demonstrated those throughout her life and into medical school. She has all the characteristics you would want to see in a physician. She’ll be a fantastic representative for the Shirley D. Curson UA Hillel Foundation Scholarship.”

Mintz will earn her medical degree from the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson in May 2023.

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