Honoring parents through an endowed scholarship
As a student in the late 1970s at the UC Davis School of Medicine, Willard (Will) Dere developed the strong conviction that the patient and his or her welfare always come first. UC Davis’ emphasis on the importance of clinical medicine was critical to his development as a physician and later in his training as an internist and endocrinologist.
Dere, who received his medical degree from UC Davis in 1980, spent the next two decades teaching the next generation of physicians at the University of Utah and Indiana University. Since leaving full-time academic medicine, he has played leading roles globally in drug development, with key positions in research and development for Eli Lilly and since 2003 at Amgen, Inc., the world’s largest biotechnology company. He is now senior vice president and international chief medical officer for Amgen. He recently joined UC Davis Health System’s prestigious National Board of Advisors.
Influence and sacrifice
But none of these accomplishments would have been possible if not for the influence and sacrifice of his parents, Bessie and William Dere. William Dere emigrated from China to Sacramento and both he and Bessie fostered in their son a lifelong commitment to education, helping others, and respect for the medical profession.
"Neither one of my parents went to a university, and my father didn’t even complete high school," Dere says. "But they revered the medical profession and saw it as very honorable, so it was their dream that I become a physician. They sacrificed a great deal for me so I would have many opportunities."
Dere’s mother, Bessie, 95, still lives in the South Land Park area of Sacramento. His father passed away.
The scholarship recognizes "our parents’ lifelong encouragement of us – their children – as students, their commitment to learning, and their deep respect for the medical profession."
Dere met his wife, Julie, while an undergraduate at UC Davis. She also benefited similarly from her parents’ commitment to higher education, as Beverly, an immigrant from China, and John (deceased) Lum of Vacaville, both UC Davis graduates, inspired her during her undergraduate and graduate education at UC Davis. She supported Dere throughout medical school, working as a home economics teacher at Dixon High School.
Now, decades later, the Deres are honoring their parents’ influence on their lives by their donation of $100,000 to establish the Lum and Dere Endowed Scholarship at the UC Davis School of Medicine. Their donation is supplemented by a $20,000 donation from the Amgen Foundation.
The scholarship recognizes "our parents’ lifelong encouragement of us – their children – as students, their commitment to learning, and their deep respect for the medical profession," Dere says. "This is a time in our lives for us to take stock and contribute to specific areas where we wish to leave a legacy. We were raised with very modest parents who shun recognition, so this is an opportunity to honor and recognize them as well as to show our gratitude to UC Davis."
The scholarship will support one or more fourth-year medical students each year who demonstrate a commitment to society, recognizing accomplishments or promise in clinical research.
Helping students excel
The scholarship for medical students is crucial, Dere says, because innovation that leads to advances in biomedical sciences and ultimately in patient care has its foundation in basic and clinical research.
"Developing those skills and the spirit of inquiry are important during one’s medical education and should be recognized and nurtured."
"We have great confidence in the current leadership at UC Davis to continue guiding the School of Medicine in a positive direction, both for students and parents, as well as for biomedical research."
The need for such scholarships is great, because the average UC Davis medical student’s debt after graduation is substantial and makes choosing the less lucrative primary care fields unrealistic for many students, Dere adds.
One of the Deres’ own two daughters is pursuing a career in medicine. Melissa is a third-year student at Tufts University School of Medicine and Kathryn is a sophomore at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, majoring in brain and cognitive sciences.
"We have great confidence in the current leadership at UC Davis to continue guiding the School of Medicine in a positive direction, both for students and parents, as well as for biomedical research," Dere says.
"The scholarship is our expression of hope and optimism for the new generation of physicians upon whom we will be depending for our own medical care and for continued advances in biomedical science."