When Sewanee approached Cornelia, C’85, and Dr. Joe, C’84, LaRussa about making a gift to the Hippocrates Challenge, the couple thought long and hard about the request. “We wanted to help Sewanee get this right, because the Pre-Health Program should provide a first-rate experience for our students,” says Cornelia Barrett LaRussa. “We are passionate about Sewanee, and we had several ideas about how we could best help based on what we had heard from Sewanee graduates, students who had rotated through our office, and on our own experiences 30 years ago, as well ast hose of our children [Barrett LaRussa, C’14, and Olivia LaRussa, C’16] and their classmates.”
The LaRussas had come to realize that, while Sewanee did many things well, there were places the curriculum could be enhanced that would bring real benefit to Sewanee students. Now, thanks to their thoughtful philanthropy, Sewanee is offering human anatomy and physiology, histology, and nutrition courses that were previously underrepresented in the curriculum. “These courses are particularly important for students who are applying to medical, dental, ophthalmology, veterinary, and pharmacy schools, and are requirements for allied health professions like nursing, and physical and occupational therapy,” says Dr. LaRussa. In fact, students preparing for admission for professional training in health professions often had to take the courses elsewhere. “Not only were the students taking summer school at some expense, but because they were doing that, we were also preventing our students from gaining valuable work experience in the healthcare environment,” says Dr. LaRussa.
The LaRussas backed their conviction with philanthropy, providing much of the funding to hire contingent faculty for these key courses. Part of their gift also went to the Pre-Health endowment to support the Hippocrates Challenge. Yet another challenge at Sewanee is actually having the infrastructure to teach these new courses. “We had a real challenge when we committed to teach anatomy,” says Alyssa Summers, director of the Pre-Health Program. “At a place like Vanderbilt, they use cadavers to really get a sense of what a human body is like, but that comes with all kinds of regulatory and infrastructure problems. It was just not possible for us to do that.” The solution proposed by Drs. LaRussa and Joe Delozier, C’77, P’16, who are on Sewanee’s pre-health advisory board: purchase an anatomage table, a life-sized high-tech touch screen with images of the human body. It is both a library of images as well as a diagnostic visualization tool that is the size of a typical operating table. It’s an amazingly accurate virtual solution.
As with the curricular enhancements, Dr. LaRussa backed his suggestion with a gift. “We are truly fortunate that these alumni and parents are really helping us guide this program and are providing funds to realize the vision,” says Jay Fisher. “What we have been able to accomplish—and still hope to accomplish—is truly an example of how the campaign is making Sewanee stronger and truer.”
For more information about the Hippocrates Challenge and Sewanee Pre-Health initiative as a part of the campaign, contact Scott Smith at 931.598.1158 or at email@example.com.
If you are interested in a gift that goes beyond current-use dollars, named endowed internship funds begin at the $100,000 level. Named endowed scholarship funds begin at the $150,000 level for the College and $75,000 for the School of Theology.