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School of Medicine discoveries

September 26, 2017

Grandchildren ensure alumnus’ legacy lives on through scholarship

Joe Smith (middle) meets the Class of 2017’s John Weeks (left), the recipient of the scholarship that bears the name of his grandfather, the Class of 1911’s Henry Clay Smith (right).

Joe Smith (middle) meets the Class of 2017’s John Weeks (left), the recipient of the scholarship that bears the name of his grandfather, the Class of 1911’s Henry Clay Smith (right).

As a young boy, Joe Smith visited his beloved Grandad every year in Burkeville, Virginia. Growing up in a military family, at times living as far west as California, he and his siblings shared fond memories of those annual trips to rural Virginia.

Their grandfather Henry Clay Smith from the Class of 1911 practiced family medicine out of his home and Smith recalls watching patients come over for appointments as the grandchildren played nearby.

“Grandad would see patients at the house and we would watch them come and go,” Smith says.

His grandfather practiced family medicine in rural Virginia for 61 years and was known to be loved and respected by his patients, many of whom he counted as friends. In 1976, two years after the physician’s passing, his children established the Henry Clay Smith M.D. Memorial Scholarship to honor his life and devotion to medicine.

Each year, the scholarship is given to a graduating fourth-year student interested in providing health care to rural Virginians. Joe Smith recently had the opportunity to visit the MCV Campus and meet this year’s scholarship recipient, John Weeks, M’17.

During medical school, Weeks participated in the International/Inner City/Rural Preceptorship program, a four-year program for students who declare an interest in and commitment to working with medically underserved populations in urban, rural or international settings.

Prior to medical school, Weeks spent three years as an outreach worker on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. He returned to the community during his third-year family medicine clerkship and fourth-year community immersion elective. “People think that to truly find the underserved, you have to go international,” Weeks said of his time on the Shore. “But that’s just not the case. All you have to do is open your eyes and look around you. The biggest similarity of all underserved populations, regardless of location, is access.”

In June, Weeks began his residency at the University of Colorado, Denver, to train in family medicine.

“It’s really rewarding for me to see someone like John receive this scholarship,” says Smith, who has faithfully supported the Henry Clay Smith M.D. Memorial Scholarship for many years. Earlier this year, the fund also received a substantial gift from the estate of Smith’s sister Elizabeth, who passed away in 2016.

Their gifts ensure that their grandfather’s name will appear on the donor wall in the McGlothlin Medical Education Center at the conclusion of the medical school’s 1838 Campaign. Donors who make leadership gifts to the 1838 Fund or to a new or existing scholarship endowment, like the Henry Clay Smith M.D. Memorial Scholarship, will appear on the donor will.

For the Smith family, it marks a fitting tribute to a cherished grandfather whose legacy now lives on in educating future generations of physicians committed to serving those most in need.

By Polly Roberts

Virginia Commonwealth University
VCU Medical Center
School of Medicine
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Updated: 04/29/2016