Paying It Forward

Jessica Anderson Shaheen ’09 and Zachary Shaheen (SJU ’09) made plans in high school to apply to CSB and SJU and start their pre-med journey together. Today, Jess is an M.D. and general surgeon while Zach is an M.D./Ph.D. working as a pediatrician and doing research in pediatric rheumatology. They made it! But now they’re interested in smoothing out that path for others.

Jess’ father and grandfather were both surgeons. She had role models and mentors. “Even having those connections, it was still a difficult process,” she says. “I realize more now that most students don’t have the advantage I did.”

Zach grew up in a comfortable environment, but “I noticed how difficult it was to navigate a premedicine training path without connections and advisors who are physicians themselves.

“CSB/SJU did a wonderful job preparing me to be a scientist,” Zach continues. “The Benedictine environment was crucial for my intellectual and moral development as a future physician.”

So they’ve established the Bennies and Johnnies Inspire the Future of Medicine Annual Scholarship – at both Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s – to give back to this community by decreasing the financial barriers involved in pursuing medical school while also building explicit alum-mentored networks for current students to help navigate everything from job shadowing and career advice to proofreading applications and more.

As their scholarship description reads: “The criteria is Bennies studying pre-med with preference to those whose identities are underrepresentedin the field of medicine with thegoal of helping the physician workforce more accurately represent the population it serves.”

The two explain, “What’s been evident to both of us as training and practicing physicians is that there are still significant structural inequities that are keeping outstanding candidates from either applying or being accepted to medical school.” These doctors are taking action to remedy the situation.