Pauletta and Denzel Washington to present Cedars-Sinai neuroscience scholarships June 7

LOS ANGELES – Two recipients of the 2006 Pauletta and Denzel Washington Family Gifted Scholars Program in Neuroscience will receive summer research scholarship awards Wednesday, June 7 at the James A. Foshay Learning Center, 3751 S. Harvard Blvd. in Los Angeles.

Pauletta and Denzel Washington will present the scholarships after a presentation by Keith L. Black, M.D., director of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center's Comprehensive Brain Tumor Program and the Division of Neurosurgery, which funds the program.

The invitation-only event is open to the media and will begin at 11 a.m. with opportunities for photos and interviews. The ceremony will begin at 11:40 a.m. with remarks from Veronique Wills, principal of the Foshay Learning Center.

Now in their third year, the awards provide $2,500 in monthly support for a graduate-level researcher and $2,000 per month for an undergraduate who have shown the desire, initiative and aptitude to make significant contributions in the sciences. Recipients work under the direction of respected physicians, neurosurgeons and scientists, and prepare a scientific abstract or paper to submit to a national neuroscience, cancer or neurosurgery organization.

This year's scholarship recipients are Freya Elena Marshall, of Sierra Madre, a medical student at Meharry Medical College in Nashville who received her undergraduate degree at the University of Southern California, and Christopher R. Urban, of Edinboro, Pa., a graduate of Pennsylvania State University who will start medical school this fall.

Both have accumulated research experience and glowing recommendations from professors that contributed to their selection. "I would … rank her in the top 10 percent of the medical students I have taught here at Meharry Medical College for the past 10 years," wrote one of Marshall's professors, also noting that she "has had significantly more research experiences than most of her peers in first-year medical school.… She worked as a research assistant on a diverse number of health-related research projects in some of our nation's finest research institutes in California."

One of Urban's professors wrote, "I've been a professor at Penn State for 36 years, and Chris has to rank in the top dozen of the thousands of students who I have taught and known over those many years. He is special and I predict will one day be a 'star' in some area of academic medicine."

Pauletta Washington said she and Denzel have been honored to lend their names to the scholarship program since its inception in 2004. Strong advocates for the strength of family and the power of education, they and their children are committed to being active partners in the scholarship program, meeting applicants and announcing the annual awards.

"We believe nothing is more valuable than knowledge. These awards are all about saving lives by supporting scholars who have tremendous potential to shape the future," said Pauletta, who also has played a key role in raising funds to support brain tumor research at Cedar-Sinai.

Black said he is encouraged by the quality of applicants for scientific scholarships, especially when other career options appear to promise immediate gratification.

"The United States is in jeopardy of losing its leadership role in the sciences at the very time that we have our greatest opportunity to translate discoveries into treatments. We believe it is important to train the next generation of life scientists and are pleased to be joined by Pauletta and Denzel and their family in this endeavor," he said.

"Scientific research is extremely rewarding, but it is not likely to bring instant wealth or sudden prestige," Black added. "Breakthroughs and insights happen a little at a time and over many years of labor. But for scientists it's a labor of love because they are inquisitive by nature and driven from within to explore and understand. The greatest scientists are those who are compelled not only to discover for themselves, but to apply their discoveries to improving the human condition."

The Pauletta and Denzel Washington Family Gifted Scholars Program in Neuroscience is offered to undergraduate, graduate and medical students pursuing training in the sciences. Recipients are matched with a principal investigator at Cedars-Sinai working in one of the following areas: blood-brain barrier and drug delivery into the central nervous system; immunology and cancer vaccine; gene therapy, gene discovery; advanced surgical technology; stem cells; or nanotechnology, the development of tools and products that are precise at the atomic level.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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