Scholarship fulfills student’s wish to help others

Growing up in Ibadan, Nigeria, taught 25-year-old Dr. Jemilat Badamas (M.D. ’09) the importance of good health care.

“I remember when the neighborhood kids stopped showing up to play in the streets, you are told they passed away, but nobody can tell you why or what happened, not because they do not want you to know but because there is nobody to explain it to them,” she said.

The daughter of a college professor and a school board director who had both attended college in the U.S., Badamas always knew she was bound to study in America. At 18, she moved to the States to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. First, she earned an undergraduate degree in biology, financed entirely by scholarships, at Morgan State University in Baltimore. When the time came to choose a medical school, Badamas chose the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine for a number of reasons.

“I was immediately drawn to the relaxing yet stimulating atmosphere and the diverse student background. I thought the curriculum was what I needed,” said Badamas, who graduated in May. “I wanted to be at an institution where I felt all doors were open in both clinical and research aspects of medicine.”

In addition to its versatile program, VCU offered financial support. For all four years of her medical education, Badamas received the Anne Marie and Jonathan Seth Perel Medical Scholarship, which was a deciding factor in her selection of the out-of-state school.

The scholarship was established in 1989 by the Jonathan Seth Perel Foundation in honor of Jonathan Seth Perel, a former MCV Foundation board member.

“It made my tuition comparable to what it would have been if I stayed in my home state,” Badamas said.

Last year, Badamas was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society, which recognizes medical students who have excelled academically and show promise of becoming leaders.

Though Badamas admits that “medical school has been a full-time job since the first day,” she still finds time for community service. She has tutored students, has volunteered at area homeless and remote-area clinics, has mentored high school students and has been a presenter for Tar Wars, a VCU-sponsored tobacco-free education program for Richmond public schoolchildren.

Badamas is training in internal medicine at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. She hopes to complete a gastroenterology fellowship and a master’s in public health and to continue working toward better health for those around her.

The School of Medicine’s capacity to attract students like Badamas to meet the growing needs of the community is limited by the availability of financial assistance, explained Dean Jerome F. Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D. Not surprisingly, student scholarships have been a priority for Strauss since his arrival three years ago.

“The escalating cost of a medical education is a challenge for creating a pool of physicians who are dedicated to primary care and are working in communities that are underserved by medical professionals,” Strauss said.

To make a gift to the School of Medicine, contact Tom Holland, associate dean for development, at (804) 828-4800, (800) 332-8813 or