The late Charles W. Schiffert knew at a young age he wanted to become a physician.
“I used to see the family doctor visit my grandmother, who was quite ill, and I would stand at the end of the bed just admiring what he did, what he said,” Schiffert said in a 2015 interview with Laura Sands, a professor in the Center for Gerontology and the Department of Human Development, both in the Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.
Before his death last fall, the innovative leader in health education and namesake of Schiffert Health Center, established the Charles W. Schiffert and Dolores S. Schiffert Endowed Scholarship Fund to provide scholarship support for Virginia Tech students pursuing a career as a medical physician. The fund’s inaugural scholarships were awarded in May 2017. Through Schiffert’s posthumous gift, others who dream the same dream he did will have the opportunity to pursue it at Virginia Tech.
Allison Teresa Burns is one of those students. The Mechanicsville, Virginia, native received one of two Charles W. Schiffert and Dolores S. Schiffert Scholarship awards.
Like Schiffert, Burns dreamed of becoming a physician as a child. “While the typical patient would cringe with terror each time they stepped foot into the monstrous hospital, I felt no fear,” said Burns, who frequented hospitals as a result of kidney reflux disease. “Lab coats, stethoscopes, test tubes: every inch of the building excited me. The copious time spent in doctors’ offices birthed a passion in me to be a pediatrician.
“I solely depend on scholarships and grants to fund my education,” said Burns, a junior studying microbiology in the College of Science and human nutrition, food, and exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “It’s really encouraging knowing that other people want to support and invest in my life.”
Cameron Myers also received a scholarship and was similarly inspired by a childhood event. “I first got interested as a 4-year-old when my grandmother underwent a surgery and got much better,” said Myers. “The ability to give people more time to enjoy their lives with kids and grandkids is the ultimate reason I want to be a physician.”
The senior studying biological sciences in the College of Science hails from Roanoke, Virginia, and plans to pursue a career in orthopedics. “It is an honor to receive this scholarship,” he said, “and it will impact my education greatly. Instead of looking for a job, I can focus on my other passions, such as volunteering and research.”
“I’m very blessed and humbled to be a recipient of this scholarship,” said Burns. “Dr. Schiffert’s legacy goes beyond his years. It definitely lives out our university motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).”
Schiffert served Virginia Tech as the associate director of student health from 1968 to 1971 and director from 1971 to 1986. During that time, he established a nurses’ clinic, allergy clinic, women’s clinic, and pharmacy. Although known for these contributions and others, his passion was educating patients. His generous endowment ensures the continued impact of that passion.
Written by Tiffany Woodall