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Doctors Across Borders

Legacy supports healers for communities

In a time when most hospital staffs and country clubs would not allow David Ascher Sr., M38, to join their ranks because he was Jewish, Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM) welcomed him with open arms.

Ascher, in turn, was determined to expand that welcome to others, no matter their heritage. After a successful career as an orthopedic surgeon and businessman, he established the Dr. David S. and Deloris Ascher Scholarship Fund with his wife, who administered the fund after his death. The scholarship helps TUSM students like Akudo A. Ikemba, M02, make the world a better place.

Ikemba is the founder and CEO of Friends Africa, a pan-African organization that mobilizes African businesses, governments, and NGOs to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. She recently helped to organize a summit in her native Nigeria on health, education, safety, and economic empowerment for women and girls in that country.

“None of this would have been possible without the Ascher Scholarship,” says Ikemba. The financial aid allowed her to focus on school and take advantage of opportunities such as postgraduate research at the prestigious London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She also became close friends with Dee (Deloris) Ascher, David Ascher’s widow, who died in 2010. “We wrote long letters and I visited her in California,” Ikemba says. “She’s one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met; just so warm and generous, and I miss her dearly.”

Renetta Caya, David Ascher’s granddaughter and administrator of the family trust that funds the scholarship, says Ikemba’s work exemplifies TUSM students’ potential. “To know that we can provide these opportunities for students who will cherish them, will grow from their experiences, and will give back is really, really meaningful,” she says.

For Nicole Afuape, M15, being an Ascher Scholar is “truly an honor.” The aid allowed the Queens, New York, native to focus on bettering the community around her as well as achieving her own goals. Without worrying about supplementing her income, she spent countless hours while at TUSM volunteering as a women’s and sexual health counselor for the Sharewood Project, a student-run organization that provides free health care to medically underserved populations in the greater Boston area. She also spent a summer in Panama, where she worked in rural clinics. She hopes to use this valuable experience as she enters residency and eventually becomes an obstetrician/gynecologist.

By covering half of tuition, the Ascher Scholarship has helped 20 TUSM students since 1998. Says Caya, “All of us on the board are so pleased that so many of the students who have received this scholarship are giving back to the community, both locally and throughout the world.”