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A Builder’s Work Continues: Jay A. Gershen URM Scholarship Recipients Announced at Celebration Event

A builder: That’s how President John T. Langell, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., describes the late Jay A. Gershen, Ph.D., D.D.S., Northeast Ohio Medical University’s sixth president. In a multitude of ways, across a decade of service, Dr. Gershen demonstrated his commitment to increasing diversity in the medical professions. 

To continue that work, Dr. Gershen’s widow, Carol Cannon, established a  scholarship endowment through the NEOMED Foundation for URM (underrepresented minorities) medical professionals after Dr. Gershen’s passing in November 2020, a year following his retirement. 

At a celebration Monday, Oct. 4, in the Jay A. Gershen Atrium of the NEOMED Education and Wellness Center, the first three recipients of the Jay A. Gershen URM Scholarship were named. They are:

Photo: Scholarship recipients Anthony Baumann, left, and Syllissa Duncan, right, with Carol Cannon, center

In his remarks to the attendees, Anthony Baumann acknowledged Carol Cannon, who traveled from her home in Colorado to Rootstown to attend the event. He noted gratefully that no person’s success can be counted as theirs alone. 

“It feels significant to get this award because it’s the first time this scholarship has been given, and it feels good to be known for a good cause,” Syllissa Duncan said in a conversation at the reception. 

Mairim Avila wasn’t able to attend the event, due to the pharmacy rotation she is serving. In remarks she provided to be read in her absence, Avila she remembered the kind way that President Gershen would ask how her day was going if their paths crossed on her way to class. He made all students feel welcome, she said.

Building a workforce that reflects the community

Diamanta Panford, a second-year College of Medicine student who has advocated for URM students, said she has seen tangible progress toward the diversity, equity and inclusion goals implicit in the Jay A. Gershen URM Scholarship. The hiring last January of Iris Mirelez, M.Ed., assistant director of Student Diversity in the College of Medicine is one example, she said. Providing the means for students to choose among a broad variety of mental health counselors, so that they can find one with whom they feel culturally comfortable, is another piece of progress. 

Also significant to Panford: the University’s work to bring the number of Black and Latinx students in the College of Medicine proportionally in line with those populations in Northeast Ohio overall — their eventual patients. Panford echoed Dr. Langell’s remarks from the podium: that Dr. Gershen understood the importance of having a provider workforce that reflects the community it serves. 

Big strides

In a conversation after the ceremony, Lisa Bennett, M.D., remembered being the only URM student in her graduating class from the College of Medicine in 1993. “It’s huge to have 30% of the first-year students be URM!” she said. 

An emergency medicine physician in Salem, Ohio, Dr. Bennett came to Rootstown for the event to support the University, as she has done in numerous other ways over the years: providing Professional Development Advisor Training to students; serving as a URM student mentor to a first-year student in the 2020-21 academic year; and interviewing prospective students.  

Photo: Alumna Lisa Bennett chats with students

About the Jay A. Gershen URM Scholarship

Each year, all NEOMED students who are underrepresented minorities will be eligible to apply for a $1,000 scholarship. The award is non-renewable. One student from each of NEOMED’s three colleges may be selected each year. 

Gifts from Carol Cannon, additional individuals and the Throckmorton Foundation have brought the endowment to $83,000, which will allow the University to recognize three students each year, noted Dr. Langell. 

Photo: Carol Cannon next to the portrait of her late husband, former President Jay A. Gershen

More information about the annual scholarship may be obtained by emailing the Office of Financial Aid at