McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Unique bursary can help area youth become doctors

Published: April 26, 2006
Family Medicine Photo
McMaster medical students (2004)

A unique partnership between McMaster University, a Hamilton benefactor and the local public school board will make it possible for disadvantaged Hamilton area students to become doctors.

The new Ron and Gina Fraser Health Sciences Bursary will pay full tuition for up to seven years for students who demonstrate academic excellence but, due to extreme financial hardship or a disadvantaged family situation, would not be considering a university education in health sciences.

The idea came from Gina Fraser, president of the Ronald K. Fraser Foundation, which is named for her husband, a Hamilton businessman and philanthropist who died in 2003.

The foundation has established a $1 million endowment to grant the annual bursaries. The provincial government will match the donation with funds through the Ontario Trust for Student Support program, which matches private donations for student financial aid. Once fully matched, the endowment will be $2 million.

Fraser said she and her husband had been interested in helping disadvantaged children for many years, and have made earlier philanthropic contributions. Although the foundation has given other bursaries to university and college students, the new initiative is aimed at reaching eligible students even before they have made any decisions about university.

"We wanted to reach those students in high school, who have no hope of ever going to university, and give them the opportunity to take advantage of this," she said. "We want to ensure this bursary goes to those in particular need."

Although the Frasers had tried in the past to develop the idea for this bursary, it wasn’t until a chance meeting last fall between Gina Fraser and Marie Townsend, administrator for the Faculty of Health Science’s Committee on Scientific Development, that a specific plan was formulated. In short order, a meeting was arranged between Fraser, Director of Education Chris Spence and Roberta Shaw, administrator for education services in FHS. Out of that meeting came the plan for the new bursary.

In addition to financial hardship, the criteria used to further assess who should receive the bursary will include disadvantaged personal situations such as living on social assistance, being a Crown Ward of the Children’s Aid Society, or experiencing family breakdown.

Students who qualify for the bursary and have an interest in health sciences will be identified at the high school level, through the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board. Each year one student who has been accepted into McMaster’s Bachelor of Health Sciences (Honours) program will receive the full tuition bursary of about $5,000 a year. If the student also applies and is selected to go on for medical education at McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, the full tuition bursary worth about $14,500 a year will be granted.

The bursary recipient will also be given a job in a research laboratory in the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster for the summer between high school and university.

John Kelton, dean and vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster, said the Fraser bursary is an example of the University’s commitment to its community.

"The Bachelor of Health Sciences program at McMaster is unique, and attracts extremely high-calibre students from across Canada," he said. "We are pleased a deserving Hamilton student will be able to take advantage of this opportunity.

"We also look forward to having that student working in one of our research facilities, which will give them a head start in their new learning environment."

Dr. Chris Spence, director of education for the Hamilton school board, said to his knowledge there is no other school board in the province involved in this type of partnership with a university.

"The Ron and Gina Fraser Health Sciences Bursary is an extraordinary gift that favours one of our talented students each year. It is disheartening when a student with outstanding academic achievements is unable to pursue a career in health sciences due to severe financial limitations. This bursary is a life-changing opportunity for one of those students."

The new Ron and Gina Fraser Health Sciences Bursary will be awarded this spring. The school board has identified a handful of students who may qualify.

Fraser noted that the provincial government program to match private donations for student aid means the endowment will have an even greater impact. She hopes other benefactors will take advantage of this government plan.

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