News Release

November 16, 2004

Embargoed until Tuesday, November 16, 10:15 a.m. EST

Media Contacts:
Karen Grava

Wendy Morphew

UConn Receives $3.5 Million to Help Recruit Disadvantaged and Minority Students to Be Doctors and Dentists

Aetna and Its Chairman Make Gifts to Support Health Professions Partnership Initiative

HARTFORD, Conn., November 16, 2004 – The University of Connecticut today announced that it has received a total of $3.5 million in endowment gifts – $2 million from the Aetna Foundation to support the University of Connecticut Health Center’s Health Professions Partnership Initiative (HPPI) and $1.5 million from Aetna Chairman and CEO John W. Rowe, M.D., and his wife, Valerie Rowe, Ph.D., to fund the John and Valerie Rowe Health Professions Scholars Program.

The Aetna Foundation’s endowment will provide long-term stability to the HPPI program, which will be renamed The Aetna Health Professions Partnership Initiative at the UConn Health Center; while the endowment from the Rowe Family Foundation will enrich the academic experience for undergraduate students interested in the health professions.

Dr. Rowe is also chairman of the UConn Board of Trustees. Mrs. Rowe is an associate professor in the Graduate School of Education at Fordham University.

Both gifts will be eligible for matching state funds (one state dollar for every two dollars raised privately) potentially increasing the value of the combined gifts to a total of $5.25 million.

“We are grateful to Aetna and to Jack and Valerie Rowe for their support of the University and these important programs,” said Philip E. Austin, president of the University of Connecticut. “It builds upon our efforts to continue to attract the State’s best and brightest young scholars, and ensures that they are included in the ‘brain gain’ in the state of Connecticut.”

“These initiatives represent a multifaceted commitment to youth, education and health,” said Dr. Rowe. “Aetna has been a part of the fabric of Connecticut for more than 150 years, and this is a perfect fit with our integrated business and philanthropic focus on reducing racial and ethnic disparities in health care. This initiative will enrich the diversity of Connecticut’s physicians and dentists and ultimately lead to increased access to quality health care for Connecticut’s diverse populations.

“Valerie and I are proud to personally support the work being done by UConn. We have spent a significant part of our lives in education, and understand the importance of opening doors to new ideas. This is an impressive program with ambitious goals for the future. Our hope is that this gift will help expand horizons for promising students.”

The Aetna Health Professions Partnership Initiative is a comprehensive program of UConn and other state educational institutions that offers academic enrichment and support activities for underrepresented and disadvantaged students in Hartford-area middle and high schools.

According to HPPI director Dr. Marja Hurley, a UConn professor of Medicine and associate dean, the remarkable gifts from Aetna and the Rowes will ensure the continued excellence of these programs:

  • The Great Explorations middle school program, aimed at increasing students’ awareness of health professions and enhancing academic preparedness for entry into the Health Professions Academies.
  • The Health Professions Academies, which are small learning communities currently operating within Hartford’s Bulkeley and Weaver High Schools, where students receive further academic preparation and awareness of career options in health care.
  • The Jumpstart Program, which focuses on college preparation in order to strengthen academic skills and career awareness.
  • The Pre-College Enrichment Program, a summer program for incoming UConn freshmen interested in the health professions that helps them acclimate to a college campus and strengthen their academic skills.

Eligible candidates for the John and Valerie Rowe Health Professions Scholars Awards will be high school seniors planning to pursue health professions related majors at UConn, who are at the top of their high school graduating classes and meet the standards for admission to the Honors Program. Rowe Scholars will be selected, wherever possible, from among students participating in the HPPI program at Hartford-area high schools.

When fully funded, the Rowe endowment will provide $3,000 educational stipends to a select group of twelve entering students each year. Many of these students are expected to enroll in UConn’s combined bachelor/medical or bachelor/dental medicine degree program, which guarantees selected students admission to the UConn School of Medicine or School of Dental Medicine after completing their undergraduate degrees.

During their undergraduate studies, the Health Center provides these students with a variety of special seminars and health profession-related activities, including “mini” medical and dental school classes and “shadow days” with UCHC faculty members. They also receive mentoring and career advice from administrators, faculty, and medical and dental students.

Shadow days enable students to spend one day per month at the UConn Health Center interacting with faculty in various learning activities, attending medical and dental school classes and special lectures, and accompanying hospital clinicians and research scientists in their normal activities.

The Rowe endowment also includes funding for an annual lecture series in critical topics in the health professions and for research fellowships so each student in the program can spend at least one summer learning about medicine or dental medicine. Working closely with faculty members, each student will commit approximately 30 hours per week to a research project in the health professions field, with approximately 8-10 hours per week set aside for clinical experiences and other enrichment activities.

UConn Health includes the schools of medicine and dental medicine, the UConn Medical Group, University Dentists, and John Dempsey Hospital. Home to Bioscience Connecticut, UConn Health pursues a mission of providing outstanding health care education in an environment of exemplary patient care, research and public service. More information about UConn Health is available at

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