Let the Healing Commence: GW’s First Adopt-a-Doc Scholar Graduates

June 18, 2015
Allison Hoff, MD ’15, and Russell Libby, MD ’79

Allison Hoff, MD ’15, and Russell Libby, MD ’79, (Left) in 2011 after Allison was announced as GW’s first Adopt-a-Doc scholar and (Right) at the 2015 SMHS Commencement ceremonies.

Four years ago, Allison Hoff, MD ’15, became GW’s first recipient of an Adopt-a-Doc scholarship, a unique initiative that provides alumni and friends the opportunity to support incoming students throughout all four years of medical school. Last month, Allison graduated and received the Doctor of Medicine hood from her scholarship donor turned mentor and role model, Russell Libby, MD ’79.

The touching moment is a testament to the unique relationship made possible by the Adopt-a-Doc program.

“I met Dr. Libby before my first day of classes when I wasn’t completely sure what it meant to be a part of the Adopt-a-Doc program,” remembers Allison. Since that first meeting, the two developed a close and comfortable relationship, experiencing the routines of a pediatric practice at Dr. Libby’s office, spending Thanksgivings with the Libby family, and discussing the challenges, responsibilities, and virtues of the practice of medicine.

Providing guidance and insight was one of the many motivators for Dr. Libby to establish the scholarship, which he named in memory of his mother, Leona Libby Feldman. He has been a longtime donor to the School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) but wanted to find a more focused way to give back to the school that meant so much to him and his career.

“The Adopt-a-Doc program gave me the opportunity to do something good for a medical student, reducing the burden of debt and making it easier for Allison to follow her heart when choosing a specialty,” says Dr. Libby. “It is also a great way to preserve the memory of my mother for me and my family, who also contributed to this scholarship. It has been a great experience in so many ways, and we will continue to support it through our annual giving and bequests through the Heritage Society.”

The impact of Dr. Libby and his family’s generosity extends to Allison’s family, too. Her parents, Gary and Catherine Hoff, say Dr. Libby’s support and mentorship has been an unexpected blessing. “It has been clear over the last four years that his relationship has had a significant impact on the way Allison views medicine and has broadened her horizons,” says Allison’s father.

Dr. Libby, an assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at SMHS, hasn’t been shy about the importance of giving back, something he calls the “learn, earn, return” paradigm. “We are privileged and fortunate to have had the opportunities provided through our profession and our educational experience at GW,” he explains, “and I can think of no better way to give back than through a program such as Adopt-a-Doc.”

Recognized by the Association of Fundraising Professionals on National Capital Philanthropy Day in 2013, his flagship Adopt-a-Doc scholarship has already inspired several other alumni to do the same, including his classmate Joanne Crantz, MD ’79, and most recently Thomas Flynn, MD’86.

“The large part he’s taken on in getting the Adopt-a-Doc program off the ground speaks well to the impact that his own experience at GW had on him, and his desire to pass that along to others,” says Allison. “My relationship with Dr. Libby has inspired my desire to continue to give back, too.”

Dr. Libby says his experience with the Adopt-a-Doc program was “a remarkable opportunity.”

“It was a pleasure to be able to play a meaningful role in Allison’s medical school experience and to help her find her purpose in this wonderful and privileged profession,” Dr. Libby says, adding that he and his wife, Dr. Mary Schmidt, an associate professor at SMHS, look forward to staying in contact with Allison. “We hope we can continue to be a comfortable resource to her for years to come.”

The couple also has something else to look forward to: meeting their new “adopted” medical student. Dr. Libby and his wife renewed their commitment to the Adopt-a-Doc program and will soon be supporting a member of the Class of 2019.

Allison hopes to follow Dr. Libby’s remarkable example as she continues on to the next step of her medical training. On Match Day, Allison found out she was paired with her top choice residency program in psychiatry at the University of Maryland Medical Center, which is one of the top programs in the country. She made sure to acknowledge the man who “had her back” for the last four years.

“He’s invested in future medical students and in finding the best way to support them,” says Allison. “Dr. Libby has been an amazing advocate and inspiring mentor. I can’t thank him enough.”