Seemingly insurmountable grief reflects in Jody Forman Fall’s eyes when she recalls the spring of 2007. It was April, and her only child, Rob V. Forman, 36, lay critically ill at University Hospital with a virus that had attacked his heart. For nearly two weeks he rallied, faltered and rallied, but despite his resolve, a mother’s love, a family’s faith, the best treatment and multiple surgeries, Rob passed away on April 26, 2007.
“You never stop being a mother,” Fall says, relenting to the tears that rightfully stream when a parent talks about losing a child of any age.
What stops the sadness and brings a light back into her eyes, however, is talking about another young man: Douglas Brown, a first-year medical student at UC’s College of Medicine and the recipient of the Rob V. Forman Memorial Scholarship.
“The last 13 days I had with Rob were because of the skill that the doctors and nurses at UH had. They were all so kind and so wonderful,” she says of the $20,000 gift created by a grieving mother to honor a life ended too soon and the efforts of the UH staff involved in her son’s care.
With hopes of doing “something special” to honor Rob’s life, Fall had a discussion with her sister, who works in hospital admissions in another state. The talk led to the idea of a COM scholarship.
Fall says, “Doctors make a lot of sacrifices to attend medical school and when they graduate most of them have all of this debt.”
In contrast, Rob “saved money like crazy,” she says, beaming with pride as she lists his accomplishments such as buying the first of three homes in his 20s, attending Cincinnati State and later establishing a business as an independent contractor for FedEx.
Fall worked closely with development director Dawn Perrin at the UC Foundation to structure the scholarship in $5,000 increments over four years. The only requirement was that it be given to a deserving Ohio resident.
“We’ve cried a lot putting it together,” says Perrin.
The emotion is not lost on Brown, a Lakota East graduate and ’08 graduate of Case Western Reserve University, who says he entered into his medical studies—and into debt—knowing that he wanted to become “a compassionate contributor” to society. “It’s a humbling experience,” he says, “to know that the scholarship is connected to such a personal story; that it didn’t come from some far removed source. When you are living in a world of negative numbers, $5,000 a year is worth far more than $5,000 in real money.”
“People who are as bright as Douglas could go anywhere,” says Fall, “and he chose UC.”
“I really hope he stays here . . . but there’s no pressure,” she says, smiling now because she believes “Rob would be happy with the decision.”
By Angela Koenig
As featured in the College of Medicine's Findings, September 2008 edition.