2018-2019 scholarship recipients

by Michael J. Campo, PhD, support staff, CMS Education Foundation

Congratulations to first-year students from the University of Colorado School of Medicine – Taylor Neilson and Breanna Stafford – who were each awarded scholarships from the Colorado Medical Society Education Foundation (CMS EF). Taylor Neilson is a recipient of the Dr. Gerald W. Rainer Memorial Scholarship. First-year students from Rocky Vista University – Thomas Coyle, Kendra Downer and Nadira Matin – were also each awarded a scholarship from CMS EF. Each student from UCSOM and RVU received $4,000.

CMS EF, a 501(c)(3) private foundation, has a mission to render financial support to select first-year medical students at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Rocky Vista University. Student scholarships are based on criteria such as the student’s financial status, academic achievement and desire to practice in rural or underserved areas upon graduation. Beyond scholarships, CMS EF supports education programs such as the Colorado State Science and Engineering Fair and the education program at the CMS annual meeting.

As CMS EF Board Chair Jack Berry, MD, stated, “The CMS EF Board is thankful for the generous financial contribution and support from CMS members and others who make our education scholarships possible.”

The 2018-2019 scholarship recipients

Thomas Coyle received a B.S. in biochemistry and philosophy from Eastern University, where he graduated from the Templeton Honors College in 2015. He studied abroad at New College, Oxford, where he focused on G.E.M. Anscombe’s and Alasdiar MacIntyre’s contributions to bioethics as well as J.R.R. Tolkien’s philosophy of language. He received his Master of Science in biomedical science from Rocky Vista University in 2018 and is currently a member of the osteopathic medical school class of 2023. He lives in Englewood, Colo., with his wife Alicia, daughter Josephine, and dogs Dante and Beatrice.

Originally from Canada, Kendra Downer grew up in the Midwest and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2012. After graduating, she moved to South America and spent four years working with nonprofit organizations to improve access to housing, education and health care for underserved communities in Peru and Colombia. Witnessing the consequences faced by those lacking access to health care abroad drove her to advocate for health care as a human right and pushed her to pursue a medical education that would provide her with the skills to do more to improve the health of underserved communities. Since moving to Colorado in 2016, Kendra has volunteered as a medical interpreter for the DAWN clinic in Aurora, working to eliminate the cultural and linguistic barriers to health care faced by Colorado’s Latino community. Kendra is particularly passionate about reproductive rights and spent the year before starting medical school working as a medical assistant at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. She hopes to spend her career advocating for and providing comprehensive reproductive health care to Colorado’s most vulnerable populations.   

Nadira Matin was born in the United Kingdom and grew up in Denver, Colo. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from the University of Denver and a Master of Science in Modern Human Anatomy from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. She has spent time working for the Centers for Disease Control, mentored children at the Eating Recovery Center in Denver, worked as an Emergency Medicine scribe and, more recently, was the student director of a mental health outreach program that worked with high school students in Denver and Aurora public schools. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, spending time with her family, celebrating her Bengali culture and traveling. She is excited to become a compassionate physician who can give back to the community.

Taylor Neilson was raised in Meeker, Colo. on her family’s commercial sheep operation. Her early years were spent helping at the family’s veterinary clinic, exhibiting 4H livestock projects, and on the basketball court. Following high school, she attended the University of Nebraska at Kearney. While attending school there she competed as a member of the NCAA basketball team. Taylor then transferred to Oklahoma State University, earning a dual degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology as well as Animal Science. From as early as she recalls Taylor hoped to pursue a career in medicine, thanks to the inspiration of her rural health care physician. Her shadowing and volunteer experiences allowed her to realize the vast opportunities to help improve the quality of life of others as a physician. Taylor looks forward to exploring these opportunities while attending CU School of Medicine.

Breanna Stafford grew up in a rural town in eastern Colorado – a town so small the class sizes ranged anywhere from one to 17 students per class. Despite living in an area with little to no opportunity, Breanna worked with her local hospital board to construct a medical internship program for local high school students. During this experience, she learned of the immense health professional shortage in the area and how it negatively affects the community. With aspirations to reverse this shortage, combined with an affinity for science, Breanna went on to continue her education at the University of Colorado - Colorado Springs (UCCS) and graduated with a bachelor’s in biomedical science. Outside of college, Breanna scribed in the emergency department, deployed for Disaster Relief with American Red Cross, volunteered with Poverty Immersion in Colorado Springs (PICOs), and served coffee as a barista. She also enjoys hiking “fourteener” mountains, visiting national parks, traveling abroad, playing sand volleyball, and doing CrossFit. With her love for adventure and spontaneity, Breanna aspires to become a rural emergency medicine doctor.