As the 10-year anniversary celebration of the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine nears, we spoke with Foster Champions and Gala Committee Chairs Robin Furman and Tita Hunt about their efforts to raise the medical school’s profile in the Borderplex region.
Tell us how you became involved with the 10-year anniversary celebration and what you are hoping to accomplish?
Tita: Robin and I have been involved in the 10-year celebration process very early on. When it came to planning an event, we wanted to do something different that hasn’t been done before in El Paso. It was important for us to celebrate the success within the community and incorporate ways we could celebrate and spotlight our students for more than just one night.
Our goal at the end of the day is to raise money for student scholarships. Fundraising is a huge component of this celebration in particular because 100% of the proceeds will go directly toward student scholarships. We wanted to incorporate raising money at the event, but beyond just table sales, and in ways that people could have a connection to the school and the students longer than one evening.
Robin: I became involved with the Foster School of Medicine when Tony and I made a gift to the school to honor my father, Dr. Arvin Robinson, who was the first chairman of the Foster School of Medicine’s Department of Radiology. Since his retirement, we began thinking about how to create a lasting tribute to my father and his career in academic medicine. In 2019, we decided to make a gift that will benefit TTUHSC El Paso for years to come and create a lasting legacy for my father. Establishing an endowed chair in radiology in his honor was the first step in our involvement with the school.
For the event specifically, one of the ways we have been able to help the school beyond one night is through the creation of a pop-up shop at the event, which we have named M.D. To Be. At the event, guests will have the opportunity to purchase items for students that they are required to purchase before they begin school – items such as stethoscopes, medical kits, books, etc. Guests can purchase these on behalf of students as a way to help them prepare for their medical journeys. This way, guests know exactly where their money is going, and students start the year with an advantage.
Tita: This was also a new concept that can be replicated at future events. We have a neon sign and movable designs that allow the concept of this fundraising tool to live beyond just one night. It can travel to fundraising events in other venues and cities, and the idea can be built upon based on what students’ needs are each year. Anytime people would want to support the school, you have a concept available and ready.
Robin: This is also one way we are putting our students front and center beyond the anniversary event. We want to make sure our guests know these efforts are going to fuel the next generation of doctors.
Tita: We have suggested from day one to include the students in all of the celebratory promotions and events. From the invitations to the billboards across town, we have made sure to spotlight the incredible students who are enrolled at the school, as well as those who have graduated throughout the school’s 10 years. It’s important to showcase who the scholarships are helping, and these personal stories help bridge a connection for guests to the school.
How are you helping to elevate awareness of the medical school within the community?
Robin: A lot of El Pasoans are familiar with the name TTUHSC El Paso, but most have never been on campus. We knew inviting community members to see the campus and meet the students in their environment would open their eyes to the incredible facets of the school. We created events throughout the year, including “Sip and Sim,” where classroom doors were open and tours were given to showcase the technology, labs and equipment that medical students have access to.
Tita: When people see the first-class technology and equipment available in the school, our community’s eyes are really opened to what an asset this school is, to not only El Paso, but the state of Texas. These events give people a chance to see how everything comes together. Through these events, we are introducing the school to more people who will potentially invest in the future because they understand the need.
Robin: It’s also easy to overlook the economic impact that these medical students have on our economy. I have a friend whose son recently matched in El Paso and was excited to come home. There is a growing population of students who are relocating to El Paso – renting apartments, eating at our restaurants and shopping at our businesses. This medical school has positively impacted the entire community.
Tell us about the event – how will this stand out to supporters, alumni and students?
Tita: This event will truly be a celebration of the school and just not a typical fundraiser. We made sure to build in the community partners who have been supportive – from the various local chefs, to the entertainment, to the students who will be attending – everyone had a role in making this event come to life.
Robin: We’re excited to have medical students sitting at each table talking with guests and telling their stories of why they chose TTUHSC El Paso. We know it’s these stories that matter and why our guests are investing in the school – to ensure the next generation of doctors succeed. The goal of the event was 500 people, and we’re making room to accommodate the 100 extra tickets we have sold.
Tita: Another important component for the night is the text-to-give opportunity. We have technology in place for every guest to be able to text directly from their phones in a competition throughout the night. We will be helping guests get set up and making it incredibly easy for them to donate from their phones. We are hoping to raise $50,000 just in one night!
With almost a year of planning behind you, what is one takeaway that has surprised you?
Robin: The more I have become involved, I feel honored to be a part of this anniversary celebration, especially with a new dental school on the horizon. There is a lot to celebrate in our community, and we should all be rooting for the success of the next 10 years. The professionalism of everyone at TTUHSC El Paso has been spectacular, and the entire process has been smooth.
Tita: I agree. I would also add that the entire community has been extremely supportive of this event and this school. Everyone has bent over backwards to make sure this event is successful and that we raise money for student scholarships. People have donated their services, products, food, and most of all, their time. It’s a real testament to the school and to the investment in our region’s future health care professionals.