For the first time in history, two UCF medical students have received the prestigious American Medical Association’s Physicians of Tomorrow award – a national scholarship based on academic excellence, volunteerism and research activities.
The program offers $10,000 in tuition assistance to medical students approaching their final year of school. The highly competitive scholarships based on financial need are provided in 12 categories, including serving those underrepresented in medicine.
UCF’s Caridad Infante received the AMA Alliance Grassroots Physicians of Tomorrow Scholarship for students with a commitment to women’s and/or children’s health. Jake Bentley received the American Academy of Sleep Medicine Foundation’s Physicians of Tomorrow scholarship, which is awarded to a medical student interested in pursuing a career in sleep medicine.
While the College of Medicine has had several winners in the past, this is the first year UCF has had two.
“This is a tremendous honor for not only Caridad and Jake, but also for the College of Medicine as a whole,” says Marcy Verduin, dean of students. “The AMA Physicians of Tomorrow scholarships are well-established, national awards that are given only to a small number of medical students across the country each year. For UCF to have two students awarded these scholarships speaks to the incredible talent of our students, the mentorship and training they receive from faculty, and the passion for medicine and service that is hardwired into the culture of our student body.”
As a first-generation student and the daughter of Cuban immigrants, Infante has dedicated much of her time to breaking barriers in reproductive health that disproportionately impact patients of color. Through interpreting for Spanish-speaking patients, Infante learned about the prevalence of period poverty among marginalized groups.
In response, she founded the UCF chapter of PERIOD Organization that distributes menstrual hygiene products to Central Florida’s free clinics including the KNIGHTS clinic — a UCF medical student-run free clinic at Orlando’s Grace Medical Home. She led the organization’s first “Packing Party,” collecting and distributing more than 3,000 menstrual products to uninsured and homeless patients in the greater Orlando area. She has also facilitated menstrual health education workshops in schools across the country.
“I am sincerely honored to have been selected as the recipient of this prestigious award. In my path to becoming a first-generation physician, I have had to encounter several financial hurdles,” she says. “It is encouraging and inspiring to know that there are organizations such as the AMA that are dedicated to helping underrepresented students fund their futures in medicine. Efforts like these inspire me to continue conquering the adversities that come with being a Latina in medicine.”
An aspiring OB-GYN and president of the OB-GYN Interest Group at UCF, Infante has also organized several events to shed light on disparities in women’s health and as a physician aims to increase representation in research and contribute to developing screening guidelines and prevention initiatives.
Bentley, the sleep medicine scholarship winner, has always had an innate curiosity for the brain and its mechanisms. Working with, Kim Manwaring, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Orlando Health’s Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, Bentley is helping to design a vibrating bed that can be used as a non-pharmaceutical way to treat sleep disorders in young people.
“As a medical student, I know nothing beats a good night’s sleep,” Bentley says. “Statistics show the number of persons relying on sleep aid drugs has increased, and the demographic is getting younger. So, if we can perfect this device, and come up with a non-pharmacological way of helping someone get a good night’s sleep, it will go a long way in helping others.”
Bentley who plans to train in anesthesiology is also passionate about health equity. As a physician, he plans to advocate for equal access and resources for underserved groups.