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August 2009 Issue

Thomas Francel, MD, a graduate of the College of Medicine, was recently honored by an anonymous donor, who established a $20,000 medical student scholarship in his name.
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Anonymous Donor Honors Work of UC Grad by Establishing Med Student Scholarship

By Angela Koenig
Published August 2009

Thanks to the benevolence of a 1982 UC College of Medicine graduate, and the gratitude of an anonymous donor, one student entering the college this year will receive a $20,000 award—the Thomas J. Francel, MD, Honorary Scholarship.   

“It was a complete surprise to me, but for someone to do it anonymously makes it pretty cool,” says the practicing plastic surgeon and alum Francel, for whom the scholarship is named.

Earlier this year, a former patient, who wishes to remain unnamed, contacted UC to set up the scholarship as a testament not only to Francel’s surgical skills but also to the “genuine compassion he displays for all those under his care,” with the lone criterion being: a student who “demonstrates uncommon compassion for others.”

“I have my UC diploma up in my library which the patients have access to … I assume that is how the donor knew (about where I went to school),” says Francel.

Francel says that indeed he looks to his training at UC as the origin of his now thriving practice in St. Louis, which includes about 30 percent reconstructive surgery for skin and breast cancer survivors. He also facilitates social support groups for these patients.

“I had been accepted to a number of schools, but one of the main reasons I chose UC was the clinical experience; after I graduated from UC I was way ahead of all my peers. I’d already put in central lines and there were days when all we did was suture. I saw enough and had my hands in enough surgery to feel very comfortable going into residencies.”

Francel completed his residency training at the New England Deaconess Hospital and a plastic surgery residency at Johns Hopkins.

But Francel’s career track didn’t come easy, says his wife of 28 years and nurse at his practice, Marilyn Francel.

“He was one of those people who could barely afford it,” she says of his paying for medical school by mowing grass and painting houses.

“It’s a tremendous distinction to have a scholarship created in your name at your alma mater, knowing that your professional conduct will benefit the next generation of physicians,” says Laura Wexler, MD, a UC cardiologist with UC Physicians, professor and senior associate dean for student affairs and admissions, who will assist in determining the recipient.

To learn more about medical student scholarship funding, call Dawn Perrin at (513) 558-2304 or e-mail

To make a gift to UC, visit or call (513) 556-6781. 

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