Jay A. Gershen Scholarship for URM Medical Students
The NEOMED Foundation has established a new scholarship fund in memory of Dr. Gershen. The scholarship will be awarded annually to one or more students from an underrepresented minority group studying in any NEOMED program. The scholarship is a way to honor the legacy of Dr. Gershen, who throughout his career was a passionate advocate for increasing diversity in the health professions.
Jay A. Gershen Biography
Jay Alan Gershen, D.D.S., Ph.D., had a distinguished 43-year career in higher education, including a decade as president of Northeast Ohio Medical University.
As Northeast Ohio Medical University president, Jay’s relentless drive and ambitious vision enabled him to transform NEOMED from a regional medical college into a leading community-based medical university in Rootstown, Ohio, partnering with 24 hospitals and dozens of ambulatory care settings as well as regional universities and colleges. As president from 2010 to his retirement in 2019, Jay led a $200 million campus expansion that doubled the size of the campus, the budget and the staff, and significantly increased the student body. He embarked on a dramatic campus makeover that included attractive new student housing and new research labs to recruit high-caliber faculty and students.
A pediatric dentist by training, Jay believed health care is a right, not a privilege, and that everyone should have access to health care, regardless of means. He also believed education is the path to individual prosperity and economic vitality. He worked hard to diversify the NEOMED student body, and his signature initiative was “Education for Service,” an innovative program focused on diversifying Northeast Ohio’s health care workforce while reducing student indebtedness and providing health care to underserved urban and rural communities.
Jay was an innovator skilled at building strong public-private relationships to make community members feel part of the university. To this end, he led the creation of a state-of-the-art wellness and education center that draws many community members to its fitness center, physical therapy and primary care practices, pharmacy, student-run free clinic, healthy bistro and conference center. Jay also championed Bio-Med Science Academy, the nation’s first public STEM high school on a medical university campus. The Academy enrolls more than 300 students who get an early start on science, technology, engineering and mathematics as well as medical careers (making it a STEM+M).
Jay loved mentoring young people and cherished the six months he spent living in student housing during his final year at NEOMED when his house sold unexpectedly in just one day. He loved getting to know the students, eating lunch with them, working out with the 5 a.m. gang at the wellness center and talking with them as they walked across campus together. He relished the chance to listen to students’ concerns and their dreams of becoming physicians, pharmacists and scientists – conversations that were so meaningful to him.
Jay excelled at listening, collaborating and building consensus. He was always quick to share credit for success with his board, leadership team and faculty. A former NEOMED colleague called him a “consummate gentleman who truly cared about others and who has helped many colleagues succeed.”
To forge relationships with the business and academic communities, Jay served on numerous boards, including as vice chair of the Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education and chair of the Inter-University Council of Ohio President’s Council. He saw the value of engaging the business community and also served on the boards of the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce, Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Commission on Economic Inclusion,
Fund for Our Economic Future, Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce, Ohio Chamber of Commerce, Portage County Development Board, Stark Development Board, Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Team NEO.
Nationally, he served on the board of the Association of Academic Health Centers and the Sullivan Alliance to Transform America’s Health Professions. He was a long-standing board member and served on the Executive Committee of Research!America.
In an interview, Jay once said, “I enjoy building things. I enjoy being in institutions and being involved with programs where creative people come together and try to accomplish challenging goals.”
That was certainly his mission at the University of Colorado at Denver, where Jay spent 12 years in executive positions, including playing a key role in consolidating the University of Colorado at Denver and the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. In 2006, he was appointed vice chancellor for external affairs for the new university. From 1997 until 2006, as executive vice chancellor, Jay led the conversion of the former Fitzsimons Army Garrison to the Colorado Health Sciences Center, successfully moving it 10 miles out of Denver despite local opposition to the project, political ambivalence and a staggering $4.3 billion price tag. From 2000 to 2002, Jay concurrently served as interim vice president for academic affairs and research for the University of Colorado. He served as the principal academic affairs and research officer for the CU system and was responsible for coordinating the development and review of undergraduate and graduate/professional programs. He also was a professor of dentistry from 1997 to 2010.
From 1976-1997, Jay was a faculty member in the School of Dentistry at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He directed the UCLA Mobile Dental Clinic serving children of migrant workers in rural California until 1982 when he was awarded a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellowship and worked on health policy issues and legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. At UCLA, he served as chair of Public Health Dentistry and later as acting dean of the School of Dentistry.
Jay earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a dental degree from the University of Maryland. He completed both a clinical specialty in pediatric dentistry and a Ph.D. in education at the University of California, Los Angeles. He also served as a postdoctoral scholar in child psychiatry at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute.
Jay, who had moved to Colorado Springs, Colo., was a fitness buff, an avid cyclist, a news junkie and jigsaw and crossword puzzle enthusiast. He enjoyed playing the piano and guitar. He loved traveling, especially exploring national parks with his wife.
Jay was devoted to his wife, Carol Cannon; his two daughters, Valari Gershen (Brandy Allen) and Jenna Gershen; his stepdaughter, Mackenzie Chernushin (Chad O’Connor); his siblings Bonnie Lagunoff, Robert Gershen and Lauren Gershen; his aunt, Irene Gershen; and numerous cousins.
He passed away on November 12, 2020, in Denver of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was 74.
Message from President John T. Langell
From across the country, we have seen an endless number of condolences and comments about Jay’s character and the importance of his foundational work ― specifically, to increase the number of minorities practicing as health professionals.
Dr. Gershen spent 10 years as NEOMED’s sixth president. His tenure was filled with unprecedented growth for NEOMED. His vision and collaborative approach were applauded and embraced both inside and outside the NEOMED community. While Dr. Gershen’s storied career spans nearly 50 years from the East Coast to the West and his well-documented successes were among several organizations, the man we all call “Jay” was centered on celebrating anyone but himself.
Jay celebrated community, diversity and integrity. He thrived on collaboration, partnerships and inclusion. He cared about people, family and society. He enjoyed teaching, serving and research.
When receiving an award just last year, Jay said to regional leaders, “it’s only when we ensure that those who are underserved have access to education and training, healthy foods, safe communities and health care, that we can we truly realize the full potential of our region.” Jay cared about Northeast Ohioans. He was a true humanitarian.
As we all share in the Gershen family’s loss, we are thankful that Jay left us with so much promise and hope as well as big shoes to fill. He also left us with his own certainty ― which you could see in his smile: One who spends a lifetime of giving will be touched in knowing that their kindness lives on in the recipients of their generosity.
To maximize the continued impact of Jay’s hard work, the NEOMED Foundation established a new scholarship fund in memory of Dr. Gershen. The scholarship will be awarded annually to one or more students from an underrepresented minority group studying in any NEOMED program. The scholarship is a way to honor the legacy of Dr. Gershen, who throughout his career was a passionate advocate for increasing diversity in the health professions.
Thank you for helping the legacy of Dr. Gershen live on through this scholarship.
Contributing to this Scholarship Fund
To make a gift, please visit neomed.edu/give/bluefund (and select the Jay A. Gershen scholarship from the drop-down menu) or send a check payable to the NEOMED Foundation at 4209 State Route 44, Rootstown, OH 44272. Please be sure to indicate on the check that it is a gift in memory of Dr. Gershen.
Remembering Jay at NEOMED