When William (Bill) Downing enrolled in the Northeast Ohio Medical University-Cleveland State University Partnership for Urban Health, he already had earned an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and served as the CEO of his own business for nearly two decades.
During his career as the CEO of a business, Downing also began working with underserved populations through Christian ministries.
“I saw a glaring need for primary care physicians in these areas who have a passion to engage the underserved communities,” says Downing, who is now a second-year student in the College of Medicine.
Making the switch to medicine
When he came upon information about the NEOMED-CSU Partnership for Urban Health, he says, “It drew me out of a business career and into the healing profession.” The pathway allows qualified students with a bachelor’s degree to complete a two-year program of pre-medicine science courses and urban health courses, then begin the College of Medicine program in Rootstown.
Generosity that goes a long way
Inspired by the program’s focus on underserved communities, Downing took on a new role as a philanthropist and introduced the Downing Urban Health M.D. Scholarship in support of NEOMED medicine students who choose to pursue careers in urban primary health care.
“New Scholarship Bonds Old Friends” feature in the Fall 2018 edition of Ignite magazine tells the story of Downing and the students – in this case, his classmates – who were the scholarship’s first recipients.
Downing draws inspiration from his peers in the College of Medicine, noting the impression they have left on him in two short years.
“At my age, taking the road less traveled can be a pretty exciting road to be on. One of the neatest things about it is the classmates that I’ve had a chance to get to know this past year. They’re amazing,” says Downing.
Peers that leave an impression
Even though he has parted ways with the business world, Downing can still spot talent and says that NEOMED is quite a special place.
“As a former business CEO, I have a knack of spotting young talent because that was a big part of my first career. I’ve never been in a place before where it’s such a gold mine for bright, young, promising talent. Everyone in my class that I’ve come to know are amazingly intelligent, they’re motivated, they’re full of energy and they’re just perfectly positioned to make a difference in their field. So what’s often a rare find out in the business community is an everyday find here among my classmates,” he says.
His generosity and sincere appreciation don’t go unnoticed. Admired by his classmates, Downing was recently nominated to serve as a student coater for the College of Medicine Class of 2023 White Coat Ceremony, held Friday, Aug. 2.
Each year, College of Medicine students nominate their standout peers for the distinction of serving as the “coaters” who help the first-year students don their white jackets for the first time — an honor Downing describes as humbling.
As he prepares to begin his second year of medical school, Downing is ready to continue making meaningful differences in the field of medicine — whether it’s amongst his classmates or patients.