November 17, 2000

Stahlman gives back to county

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Dr. Mildred Stahlman stands with Dr. Kerry Ross and Dr. Tara Mosley, who attended college with the aid of scholarships provided by Stahlman. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Stahlman gives back to county

Dr. Mildred Stahlman, best known as the pioneer of modern neonatal intensive care, is a tiny woman with a very large presence, and an even bigger heart.

Just ask Drs. Kerry Ross and Tara Mosley, Vanderbilt University Medical Center residents. The two Humphreys County natives attended college with the aid of scholarships provided by Stahlman, whose 700-acre farm is located in Humphreys County.

Ross, a third-year internal medicine/pediatrics resident, and Mosley, a first-year pediatrics resident, are two of 22 Humphreys County high school graduates who have received partial four-year college scholarships from the Mildred T. Stahlman Education Foundation over the past 11 years. The annual scholarships, awarded to two students from the county’s two high schools, are awarded for academics as well as need. The students, selected by a panel for Stahlman, are chosen from 10 finalists. To continue to receive the scholarship, the students must maintain a 2.5 grade point average each year. Stahlman tries to personally award the scholarships to the students in Humphreys County.

“It’s a rural county and a poor county,” Stahlman, professor of Pediatrics, said. “Many kids don’t have the opportunity to get into competitive schools. I thought this was one way I could help.”

Ross, a 1989 graduate of McEwen High School, attended Union University in Jackson, then University of Tennessee Medical School at Memphis. Mosley, a 1992 graduate of Waverly Central High School, attended Austin Peay University in Clarksville, then East Tennessee Medical School.

“I would have been able to go to college, but with loans,” Ross said. “One thing about the scholarship is that it allowed me to go to a private school which was very helpful. It was an environment that was appropriate for me.”

“It was definitely a burden lifted, Mosley said. “Every little bit helps.”

The residents maintained contact with Stahlman not only during college but also through medical school and now as residents. Ross has had three NICU rotations and has been part of Stahlman’s once-a-week rounds. Mosley has gone through one NICU rotation, but Stahlman was not present.

Ross, who is married with two children, said he solicited Stahlman’s advice before he enrolled in medical school.

“Other than my family physician, she was the only other physician I knew,” Ross said. “When I decided to go to medical school, I called her and she arranged a meeting at her farm to talk about it. She affected my life greatly then, too, by telling me that medical school was certainly a possibility for me.”

Hating to ask for any more help, Ross didn’t ask Stahlman to write a letter on his behalf when he was applying for a residency here.

“I had written her throughout college but didn’t feel like I had such a strong relationship with her that I could ask her to write a letter for me. So I didn’t ask her. Then five days from the end of the interview process, I was here for an interview, and stopped in to say hello. ‘Where’s your CV? I’m going to need that if I’m going to write a letter for you,’ she told him. I was taken aback. I wasn’t going to ask.”

Mosley, who met Stahlman for the first time when she came to Vanderbilt during her third year of medical school for an externship, corresponded with her by letter and phone frequently during college and medical school.

“She wasn’t there the day I got my scholarship, so I sent her a thank you letter and wrote a letter every semester during college just to say thank you. “I always had the best intentions to try to get together to have lunch with her, but never got around to it. I was a college kid. She had such a busy schedule.”

So Mosley simply showed up at Stahlman’s office one day when she came here for the externship.

“There she was, sitting there in front of her microscope, with her hair in a bun,” Mosley said “It was exactly how I had pictured her.”

Stahlman said that her motivation to fund the scholarships is simple. She hopes the students will give something back to Humphreys County.

“I always tell them that I hope they’ll give back to their community in some way. That’s primarily what I want to see come out of this,” she said. “All you can do is hope that they will lead a better intellectual life and that they’ll be better citizens of their community because they’ve gone to college.”