Impact of Giving

These are the stories of the individuals and foundations who help advance Chicago medicine and science through their vision and philanthropy.

Rahmawati Sih, MD '89  

Donor Stories

Widow Keeps Husband's Memory Alive
by Contributing to Scholarship Fund

In addition to his full-time status as a medical student at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, Jonathan Kirscher, MD, served as a housing coordinator for visiting students, participated in the HIV Intervention and Prevention program that educates middle and high school students about the diesease, and was senior class treasurer—all attributes that made him a stand-out for the Thomas Park Class of 1989 Memorial Scholarship.  

Kirscher, a student in the University’s psychiatry program, was one of the first recipients to receive the scholarship, which is awarded to medical students who display outstanding talents in the liberal arts and who possess strong humanistic qualities and great integrity. 

“The nice thing about receiving the scholarship is that it sets a good example for me to start considering how I might give back,” he says. “I thank the organizers of the Park scholarship and for all the help they provided.”

Man of Many Talents
Thomas H. Park, MD ’89, was a cardiovascular electrophysiologist in DuPage County before he died in 2002 of a viral heart infection at the young age of 39. He was also a beloved father, an accomplished musician, and loved baseball, says his widow, Rahmawati Sih, MD ’89.

“Among the stipulations for the scholarship is that it goes to a student who possesses a well-rounded background, which was very much reflective of Tom,” Sih says. “He was not a typical premed major, but was actually a star economics student with a whole range of interests.” 

Recently, Sih, a geriatrics specialist in LaGrange, IL, contributed $180,000 to help grow and sustain the scholarship fund, which was established by former classmates in 2008. More than $100,000 was raised the first year it was introduced. Sih also made the University of Chicago a beneficiary of her estate.

“Most people my age don’t go through the process of estate planning, but at the time Tom died, my world was spinning out of control and I was so grateful that he had some foresight and planned for the potential ‘what ifs,’” she says. “You never want to think about the ‘what ifs,’ but that’s exactly what happened to me. I knew that I had to make a concerted effort to plan for any other ‘what ifs.’”

Setting the ultimate example
Park and Sih met the first weekend of medical school and were married the weekend before they graduated. They had three children together, all under the age of 8 when he died.

By contributing to the scholarship fund, Sih’s intentions were not only to keep her former husband’s spirit alive, but to also set an example for her children about the importance of philanthropy. “Rather than just going on another vacation or buying another car, I wanted my kids to see other ways that money is beneficial. This lets them know that their father was well loved, a brilliant man, and a wonderful person. It also helps them see in a very tangible way how others thought of him, too.”

Friend and classmate Kit Young, MD, ’89, who contributed to the fund, is among many who thought so highly of Park. “Tom was a good friend to all, but he was also an amazing physician and an excellent father,” he says. “He was an enthusiastic and nurturing teacher as well. The scholarship fund is a fitting tribute and exemplifies his spirit, record of teaching, and clinical prowess.” 

Scholarship aid instrumental for park
When Park was a student, scholarship support was instrumental to his education, and when he and Sih got married and combined loans, the impact of those scholarships really became evident. “It was great that we didn’t have the burden that we otherwise would have had because of the scholarships that he received,” Sih says. “And I know the scholarships were so appreciated by his family.”

For Kirscher, who is embarking on a five-year child and adolescent psychiatry program, the scholarship allowed him to focus on research instead of taking on a summer job. “Medical school is kind of like a financial mountain that everyone has to climb, and every single cent helps,” he says.

Mindful of the benefits of scholarships, Sih, who is now remarried and active with the University’s Alumni Relations Group, is pleased that students like Kirscher are the beneficiaries. “My degree from the University of Chicago opened up so many doors,” she says. “If we can, through the fund, help students along the way, who in turn make a difference in medicine and the world, then we have succeeded.”  

For information on how you can contribute to the scholarship fund, please contact Jill Doherty at 773.702.3055.

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