Janee Murray

Janee Murray is studying psychiatry and emergency medicine and hopes to work with underserved urban populations to promote health education and community change. Murray was one of eight first-year students awarded scholarships from the UC Davis School of Medicine Alumni Association last year.

A sense of social responsibility Witnessing others’ struggles drove Janee Murray to pursue a career in psychiatry and emergency medicine

Sometimes we don’t come to understand the experiences we garner in childhood until we are fully grown as adults. For Janee Murray, this meant witnessing loved ones exhibit the behavioral symptoms of an untreated mental health disorder, while not being old enough to understand or identify what was causing them.

It wasn’t until many years later, while studying psychology in college, she learned of statistical findings that indicate underprivileged minority individuals are less likely to seek medical assistance. Further research revealed that many African-Americans feel they lack equal access to, or knowledge about, the health resources available to them.

The sense of a correlation between these findings and her own formative experiences provided Murray compelling motivation to consider a career in medicine and mental health, and to better understand social health trends and stigmas in minority communities like her own.

“I had an interest sparked by a sense of social responsibility to my community, because of my own personal linkage to the subject,” she wrote in her medical school application essay. “I felt that by becoming a physician of psychiatry and working with under-
represented communities, I could help with decreasing these stigmas.”

Murray is now a UC Davis medical student, and was one of eight highly deserving incoming first-year students awarded surprise scholarships of $10,000 each from the UC Davis School of Medicine Alumni Association last year at the association’s welcome reception for the Class of 2019.

The awards are made possible thanks to the generous alumni committed to “paying it forward” for future generations of physicians who face both rising education costs and greater uncertainty upon entering practice. Students are selected on a combination of academic excellence, proven leadership skills and financial need, and many have overcome significant hurdles.

Before coming to UC Davis Murray had already tested her mettle through work as an emergency medical technician. She also served the community as a health educator and a mentor to underrepresented students.

Now, having completed her first year of medical school, she is continuing to pursue a specialty in psychiatry, in addition to emergency medicine.

“I know for certain that I would like to continue working in the underserved urban population, incorporating my research in a way that will promote healthy programming, education and change within these communities,” she said.

Beyond the academic rigors of a medical student’s first year, Murray also served as an officer in student-run clinics and organized efforts with the Student National Medical Association — the oldest and largest student-run organization focused on supporting underrepresented minority medical students — and the American Medical Women’s Association.

At the conclusion of her first year Murray was also selected for the Julie Freischlag Research Award, an endowment established by UC Davis Vice Chancellor and Dean Julie Freischlag and her spouse, Phil Roethle, to encourage medical students to pursue quality improvement research early in their careers.

Despite careful navigation and preparation all along the way, Murray’s path to the medical school has not been without uncertainties caused by the heavy debts that accompany medical education. Tuition relief is particularly important to the many UC Davis students who come from backgrounds of limited financial means, and nearly a quarter of UC Davis’ medical and nursing students can come from backgrounds where financial resources are extremely tight.

“Going into this profession I was sort of at an impasse — I knew that I would have to do this alone, and that I would have to take out more loan money to afford an advanced education,” Murray said. “Sometimes this can deter students like me from pursuing this really wonderful field. Scholarships for students like me make a huge difference. They foster the promotion, growth and diversity of this profession.”

For more information about the scholarship fund and awards, please contact M.L. Farrell, director of alumni engagement, at medalumni@ucdavis.edu or 916-734-9410