Loyola University Chicago

Loyola University Chicago

University Newsroom


Media Contact:

Evie Polsley
Senior Media Specialist
Health Sciences Division

Steve Christensen
Director of Communication
Loyola University Chicago

“DREAMers” Begin Medical Career Today at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine
Loyola, Senator Durbin, Governor Quinn, IFA Welcome “DREAMers” to the Class of 2018

MAYWOOD, Ill., August 4, 2014 – Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine welcomed its Class of 2018 today, 160 new students who will spend the next four years working to achieve their dream of becoming physicians. Adding to this historic day is the presence of seven “DREAMers” in the class.

Today’s welcome comes nearly two years after the Stritch School of Medicine became the first medical school to amend its admissions policies to include qualified students who have received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status.

“Our school’s social justice tradition, which is rooted deeply in the tradition of Jesuit and Catholic education, promotes the dignity, literally the ‘worth,’ of all persons,” said Linda Brubaker, MD, MS, dean and chief diversity officer, Stritch School of Medicine. “Our social justice tradition called us to take a leadership role in offering educational opportunities to underserved groups, including qualified applicants with DACA status. We also believe that the mission to train a talented and diverse physician workforce should motivate other medical schools to do the same. The opportunities are now much greater than the barriers.”

While the introduction of the DACA program in June 2012 cleared a number of logistical barriers for “DREAMers” looking to apply to medical schools, access residency programs, and become licensed to practice medicine, a significant issue remained—the burden of paying for medical school without access to federally guaranteed student loans available to other students. Stepping in to alleviate this issue was the Illinois Finance Authority (IFA), which saw a unique opportunity to invest in the medical and dental infrastructure of the state by creating a statewide DACA loan program modeled on public health service loans.

At present, the State of Illinois is facing a physician shortage in many communities. The IFA loan program, which is available to the state’s seven medical schools and three dental schools, addresses that issue by requiring students who access the program to provide a year of service in a designated underserved area of Illinois for each year he or she receives the loan.

“Through this Illinois Finance Authority program, these highly qualified students can access the loans they need to become skilled doctors and dentists,” said William Brandt Jr., chairman of the board for the Illinois Finance Authority. “In return, they’ll practice for up to four years in underserved communities across our state. There is a huge benefit here for the people of Illinois, especially those that need increased access to quality, local health care.”

With the IFA helping to break down the last significant roadblock, students like Johana Mejias were free to pursue their dream. “Today what was once just a dream starts to become a reality. I find myself as part of Loyola Stritch, a loving, professional, and courageous institution that believed in my ability to one day become a successful practicing physician,” said Mejias. “Loyola Stritch is dedicated to meeting the health care needs of our nation’s underserved and I am proud to be part of this institution.”

Mejias and the other “DREAMers” at the Stritch School of Medicine matched their credentials against some of the most sought-after candidates across the country.

“It’s important to note that these are dedicated, highly qualified students who competed on a level playing field throughout the admissions process,” said Dr. Brubaker. “We are excited to have them as part of our community and we look forward to sharing their expertise with Illinois residents for years to come.”

On hand to welcome Mejias and her fellow “DREAMers” to their first day of medical school was Illinois Governor Pat Quinn.

“I signed the Illinois DREAM Act to make it possible for deserving students to have a shot at an education and a brighter future,” said Governor Quinn. “These loans provide opportunities that can change lives throughout Illinois for the better. I congratulate this new generation of medical students and look forward to seeing the incredible things they will achieve.”

Loyola University Chicago has a long history of advocating for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which was first introduced by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). As the Senate’s biggest champion of immigration reform, Senator Durbin understands the significance of these “DREAMers” having the opportunity to chase their ultimate goal.

“This is what Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is doing: giving talented young people an opportunity to contribute to the only country they’ve ever called home. With this program these promising young students have the opportunity to realize their dreams of becoming physicians and in a few years medically underserved communities across the state will see an infusion of talented young physicians,” said Durbin. “I commend Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine for leading the way in Illinois and giving these students a chance. It’s an honor to be with these young people today as they begin a journey that I believe will make our state even stronger.”

For more on DACA status and the Stritch School of Medicine’s commitment to “DREAMers,” visit www.stritch.luc.edu/daca. For media inquiries, please contact Evie Polsley at epolsley@lumc.edu or 708.216.5313 or 708.417.5100.

About the Loyola University Chicago Health Sciences Division
The Loyola University Chicago Health Sciences Division (HSD) advances interprofessional, multidisciplinary, and transformative education and research while promoting service to others through stewardship of scientific knowledge and preparation of tomorrow’s leaders. The HSD is located on the Health Sciences Campus in Maywood, Illinois. It includes the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, the Stritch School of Medicine, the biomedical research programs of the Graduate School, and several other institutes and centers encouraging new research and interprofessional education opportunities across all of Loyola University Chicago. The faculty and staff of the HSD bring a wealth of knowledge, experience, and a strong commitment to seeing that Loyola’s health sciences continue to excel and exceed the standard for academic and research excellence. For more on the HSD, visit LUC.edu/hsd.

About Loyola University Chicago
Founded in 1870, Loyola University Chicago is one of the nation’s largest Jesuit, Catholic universities, with nearly 16,000 students. Nearly 10,000 undergraduates hailing from all 50 states and 82 countries call Loyola home. The University has four campuses: three in the greater Chicago area and one in Rome, Italy, as well as course locations in Beijing, China; Saigon-Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Vernon Hills, Illinois (Cuneo Mansion and Gardens); and a Retreat and Ecology Campus in Woodstock, Illinois. The University features 10 schools and colleges, including the Quinlan School of Business, Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, Stritch School of Medicine, College of Arts and Sciences, School of Communication, School of Continuing and Professional Studies, School of Education, School of Law, School of Social Work, and The Graduate School. Consistently ranked a top national university by U.S.News & World Report, Loyola is also among a select group of universities recognized for community service and engagement by prestigious national organizations like the Carnegie Foundation and the Corporation for National and Community Service. To learn more about Loyola, visit LUC.edu, “like” us at Facebook.com/LoyolaChicago, or follow us on Twitter via @LoyolaChicago or @LoyolaNewsroom.

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