More than 650 University of South Carolina School of Medicine students, alumni, faculty members, staff and friends converged on the Carolina Alumni Center for the 2017 Black Tie/White Coat Gala on Friday, March 3.
Founded by fourth year medical students in 2002 as a way to give back to the community, the gala is almost completely student-led, with guidance from the school’s alumni office.
“Needless to say, this event holds a very special place in my heart,” says SOM alumnus Dr. Todd Crump, emergency department physician at Lexington Medical Center and director of the Free Medical Clinic.
“The gala has raised more than $750,000 in the last 15 years to benefit the Alumni Scholarship Fund and The Free Medical Clinic.”
Because the clinic generates about seven dollars’ worth of services for each dollar donated, Crump and his fellow volunteers have been able to provide more than $2 million worth of health care to their patients with funds raised by the event.
In addition, the gala helps create much needed awareness about how the clinic serves local patients who would otherwise fall through the cracks.
Crump notes that medical and graduate students already have pretty full plates – as their studies and responsibilities can be intense. He says that makes their dedication to this cause even more impressive.
“It never ceases to amaze me that they are able to produce such a phenomenal gala while finishing rotations, studying, interviewing for residencies and planning for graduation.”
Fourth year medical student Erik Eadie, now a veteran gala committee member, says the planning process can be challenging but has given him a chance to hone his time management and teamwork skills, along with a great avenue to network with SOM alumni and faculty.
During a recent residency interview trip, Eadie was able to bunk with an alumnus through the school’s Help Our Students Travel (HOST) program. It turned out that the alum was a Class of 2002 graduate and one of the gala’s original founders.
“It was great to connect with him on a tradition that has become so important to the school,” Eadie says. “It also speaks to the family atmosphere that the SOM fosters here.”
Aside from camaraderie and celebration, one of the gala’s most popular elements is its famous silent auction, which features a wide array of unique items donated by local businesses, alumni, faculty and students.
In past years, guests have vied for Darth Vader cufflinks, original paintings, signed sports memorabilia, a gift certificate for a custom tattoo and an object d’art made from an old x-ray box. The latter ultimately sold for $900 after a fierce bidding war.
This year alumnus Dr. Craig Ward donated a slew of antique medical curiosities, including a leather doctor’s case filled with vials of dubious-looking potions, a bedpan, a pair of Civil War era forceps, and something called the Master Violet Ray #11 Electro Electric Health Generator, which Ward says is “guaranteed to cure what ails ya.”
Other standouts included a large blue glass skull, a vintage School of Medicine scrub cap, and a garden gnome dressed in an Elvis Presley jumpsuit.
Crump hopes the experience the students gain hosting the event will spark a passion for philanthropy they will carry forward into their professional careers. He says he’s grateful to everyone who contributes to the gala for making it such a successful event and fundraiser.
“It makes me incredibly proud to see the impact my alma mater is making in our community.”