December 4, 2017

'A Christmas Carol' inspires alumna philanthropist to establish Jacob Marley Endowed Scholarship

Linda Colby, M.D. '90, has long cherished Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." The novella, which tells the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, begins with Scrooge's encounter with his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley. The ghost of Jacob Marley appears like a grim reckoning — riddled with his vices of greed and selfishness for eternity. Marley's foreboding appearance and the warnings that follow enlighten Scrooge, changing his character from a sad, materialistic man to one who finds pleasure in helping others. It was this story of hope that inspired Dr. Colby to establish the Jacob Marley Endowed Scholarship during the Pivotal Moments campaign.

"I think the most important message that Marley's character sends is that it is never too late for someone to change and to give back," Dr. Colby said.

The allegory of "A Christmas Carol" and finding ways to serve others inspired Dr. Colby's career in Family Medicine. The joy she finds in caring for all of her patients helps overshadow her own difficult journey through medical school.

"In spite of my father's college degree, he did not believe in education, especially for women," Dr. Colby said. "He did not believe in having books in the home."

Undeterred by her father's views, Dr. Colby remained resolute in her goals to become a doctor. With youthful ambition and only $300 in her pocket, she came to the Wayne State University School of Medicine.

"I managed my education on a shoe string," Dr. Colby said. "I feel that the university welcomed me with a generous spirit. The assistance they provided made continuing my education possible."

The generosity and support Dr. Colby felt from the Wayne State University School of Medicine had a part in shaping her career and why she spends time volunteering at a free clinic at a church in Massachusetts, where she lives and practices.

"The story of Scrooge's awakening to the plight of the poor and needy reinvigorates my drive to care for people truly in need," Dr. Colby said. "I hope that students who receive the Jacob Marley Scholarship will be inspired to remain connected to the world by caring for all patients with the same sense of duty."

In keeping with Dr. Colby's vision for the scholarship, the award has reminded the inaugural recipient, Arjune Dhanekula, of the values of community and the importance of helping those in need.

"The path of medicine is often isolating, but it is heartening to know that there are people in the community who understand the difficulties of being a medical student and are willing to help decrease those burdens. It really has reminded me to be grateful of where I am in life," said Dhanekula, a third-year medical student. "Jacob Marley serves as a timeless warning of living a life of solitude and selfishness. Fortunately, in medicine, it is part of our daily routine to heal, counsel and improve the lives of those around us."

Like Dhanekula, Dr. Colby focuses on improving the lives of those around her. Her mission to help others has inspired her annual holiday tradition of watching "A Christmas Carol" with her family.

"Every year when we watch 'A Christmas Carol' I am reminded of how fortunate I have been and the importance of generosity," she said. "Jacob Marley went through life so oblivious to other people's needs. Only after death was he able to see how much value there is in bringing joy to others."

Dr. Colby hopes that others will understand the gift of giving and will continue this message of goodwill toward humanity. As one of Dickens' characters says in the classic, the holiday season is "… a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely and think of people."

To learn more about giving to the School of Medicine and supporting medical education, contact Patty Paquin at or 313-577-0026.

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