Vanderbilt grad launches new GLBT scholarship

Though the GLBT community makes up only a small portion of Nashville's population, its positive impact remains significant.

One standout example is Klint Peebles, a first-year medical student at Vanderbilt Univeristy School of Medicine, who is the inaugural recipient of the university's new Student Life Scholarship in recognition of his contributions to GLBT issues related to the medical field. At this time, it's believed that this is the only GLBT scholarship awarded by a medical school to one of its own students, according to the university.

The scholarship was created by Vanderbilt University School of Medicine grad Dr. Ira Shivitz, a local ophthalmologist. Shivitz created the scholarship for students who encourage diversity through their commitment to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender awareness at Vanderbilt. While preference was given to self-identified GLBT students, the scholarship is open to anyone who devotes their time and energy to GLBT health concerns.

Scott Rodgers, the medical school’s associate dean for students, calls Shivitz “a very warm and compassionate person,” and says he believes the scholarship will further promote Vanderbilt's commitment to GLBT issues.

“We are extremely excited to be at the cutting edge of such an initiative, and we believe it sends a strong symbolic message to the Nashville community and to the nation regarding Vanderbilt's commitment to a broadly-defined diversity agenda, fully inclusive of GLBT,” he said.

As an undergraduate student at Vanderbilt, Peebles served for two years as president of the Lambda Association, the university's leading organization for sexual orientation and gender identity. After graduation, he transitioned into further GLBT programs, serving on committees for Nashville Pride, the Human Rights Campaign and World AIDS Equality Day. Even so, Peebles said he was surprised when the award was announced.

“It was one of the most humbling moments of my life. I was very taken aback that someone would want to invest in my education,” he said.

However, Rodgers said that Peebles is the perfect recipient of the first scholarship.

“His leadership, service, intelligence, humility and integrity make him ideal for this honor, and we know that he will make a real difference in the lives of his patients, now and throughout his career,” he said.

Though the medical field’s practitioners can be conservative, Peebles, who plans to complete his medical degree in 2013, says he hasn't experienced any discrimination during his time at the university.

“The Medical Center is an accepting place, very much unlike it's been portrayed in the past,” he said. “Through all this I've been assured in my decision to practice medicine.”

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