When Gary White’s daughter Jennifer was 6 months old, he and his wife, JoAnn, took her to a children’s hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. A couple weeks later, the White family received grim news. Jennifer was only expected to live for two years due to a condition doctors most closely related to cerebral palsy.
Jennifer beat the odds stacked against her, continually, until Dec. 16, 2011, when she passed away at the age of 39.
Mr. White said his daughter’s ability to fight the odds was attributed to the exceptional health care Jennifer received throughout her life — particularly the last 10 years she was under the care of William Mullen, D.O., a West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicin (WVSOM) graduate and physician at Logan Regional Medical Center.
“My wife and I had a special needs daughter, and Dr. Mullen gave her exceptional care each year,” said Mr. White. “I struggled with what you can do for someone like Dr. Mullen. This year, after my daughter’s death, my wife said, ‘Why don’t we fund a scholarship in his name? It can be a memorial to Jennifer but also a thank you for all Dr. Mullen has done for us.’”
The couple, along with the help of friend James “Buck” Harless, did just that.
“I called Mr. Harless and explained the idea to him and he thought it was wonderful,” said Mr. White.
The Logan natives formed the Dr. William B. Mullen & Jennifer White Scholarship with a $200,000 endowment. The scholarship endowment is the largest single donation received in the institution’s history.
“It’s hard to put into words what this endowment will mean for the school,” said Dr. Michael Adelman, WVSOM President. “We are grateful to the White family and to Mr. Harless for their generosity. The scholarship honors a WVSOM graduate who had a profound impact on a patient and, by extension, her family. It demonstrates the highest form of service a physician can provide.”
Harless, who has been a long-time supporter of WVSOM and worked with White for nearly 20 years, said there was no hesitation when it came to contributing part of the financial backing for the scholarship.
“Dr. Mullen did such a good job with Jennifer that he almost became a member of her family,” he said.
Mr. White and Harless agreed that they would like the scholarship recipient to be a student from Logan or Mingo counties. White said he would further hope the scholarship recipient would want to become a physician in either of those counties.
“If we, in some way, helped a local student and continued the osteopathic care that Dr. Mullen has provided to our family by having a graduate of the program come to the Logan or Mingo area, we would be very pleased with that,” said Mr. White.
Harless said he knows what scholarships like these can do to inspire students to forge a positive path in the future.
“I believe in education strongly,” said Harless. “Education is our salvation and I really believe that. I always try to help those who can’t help themselves. It’s a joy to me to see someone young be successful and know that my actions may have done something for them.”
The White family hopes the WVSOM medical students who are recognized by the scholarship committee will emulate the characteristics and quality traits of Dr. Mullen.
“Dr. Mullen is exceptionally tenacious,” said White. “If his patient has a medical problem, he does not rest until he has diagnosed the problem and found out what is necessary to deal with the problem. He’s also very compassionate, which is pretty unique. Billy just takes an exceptional personal interest in his patients.”
Jennifer experienced a decade of outstanding care from Dr. Mullen. Even though she was limited in her ability to communicate, her family’s appreciation for Dr. Mullen is more than manifested in the generosity of the scholarship which bears his name.
“We feel strongly that this is an appropriate and lasting memorial gift to our daughter,” said Mr. White. “This is a special gift honoring two special people.”