Twice the impact, RowanSOM alumna establishes dual scholarships

Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine (RowanSOM) alumna Virginia C. Phipps, D.O. ’00 has established two new scholarships in support of underrepresented students studying medicine.

“I was only 10 years old when I found children’s encyclopedias and started educating myself about my health,” said Phipps. “And it was done just like that—I knew I was going to be a doctor.”

The Doreen and Benjamin Phipps Scholarship will support a student of diversity who promotes the cultural pride and tradition of the immigrant community with demonstrated financial need while The Phipps Family Scholarship will support a student in good academic standing who has the potential to share their varied cultural perspectives and diverse backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented in medical education.

“I grew up in an environment of giving and it has always been a big part of my life,” said Phipps.

As a child, Phipps says her parents were the “do-gooders” of the village where she grew up in St. Kitts. Her mother led the 4-H efforts (Head, Heart, Hand and Health) while her father was a farmer who strived to feed the community, even those who couldn’t afford food.

“They were always sharing and trying to elevate others,” said Phipps. “There was a feeling of benevolence in my home, so I wanted to keep my parents’ names alive by creating these scholarships of goodness and benevolence.”

Not only was it important for Phipps to honor her parents and their altruism, but she also hopes to open a door for individuals who are facing many of the same challenges she experienced herself.

“In a field that has been historically dominated by white males, I really want to pay it forward to those who are underrepresented,” said Phipps. “If I can help someone get to where they need to be, then they can later help someone else and so on.”

Phipps’ time at then-University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey also played a role in her decision to support generations of RowanSOM physicians.

“The thing I miss the most about being a student is the fellowship,” said Phipps. “Our graduating class was a great class. We were always together, always helping each other, so I hope these scholarships will serve as a way to continue that fellowship.” 

An internal medicine trained physician, Phipps has had the unique advantage of working in varied medical facilities and functioning as the “new set of eyes” to help identify inherent fallacies that exist in the practice of medicine. Currently, she has been traveling across the country to assist emergency staff during the coronavirus crisis.

“I just spent five months in Texas and am now in upstate New York,” said Phipps. “I find that each place I travel to has its own subculture. I love seeing that diversity and how I’m constantly learning which is why I love what I’m doing right now.”

Phipps has also spent time teaching students at Rutgers University and Albert Einstein School of Medicine as well as interns, residents and physician extenders during various hospital employments.

Her advice to current and future physicians as they enter the healthcare industry in the midst of a pandemic: “Do your best and always be confident.”

“The patients in hospital or outpatient settings are scared,” concluded Phipps. “So as physicians, it’s important to perpetuate confidence. Patients need to feel safe and that we are going to help them through this crisis. That’s the most important thing right now.”