When third-year medical student Stephanie Liem Azar died of a sudden and brief illness in July 2013, the CUMC community, along with her friends and family, mourned the loss of a talented and caring person. Among Ms. Azar’s many qualities remembered by those close to her were her generosity and commitment to advocacy, which were reflected in her participation in the Dígame Summer Spanish Language and Cultural Immersion Program, run by the Columbia University IFAP Global Health Program.
It is fitting that she will be remembered at the medical center through the Stephanie Liem Azar Community and Immigrant Health Leadership Scholarship, which will support a student participating in the Dígame program.
Students in the program spend the summer learning Spanish language skills through work in community-based organizations for Spanish-speaking patients and clients in Washington Heights. In improving their linguistic and cultural skills, the students develop better tools to care for Spanish-speaking immigrants in their future careers.
The inaugural scholarship recipient is Daniel Hoesterey, a first-year student in the Columbia-Bassett Program of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
About Daniel Hoesterey
Mr. Hoesterey graduated cum laude from Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California, with a degree in neuroscience. His senior research thesis, which was named the “Best Thesis in Neuroscience,” examined the effect of dopamine on neuronal responses in the auditory cortex. During college, he volunteered at a center for Spanish-speaking day laborers in Pomona, where he taught computer skills and served as a student therapist for children with autism.
A talented athlete and student, he was recognized as an Edmund F. Maxwell Foundation Scholar, one of the college’s highest honors. His faculty mentors described him as a natural leader who is “hard-working, service-oriented, humble, and committed to improving the lives of others.”
After graduation, Mr. Hoesterey traveled to Peru to improve his Spanish language and cultural skills. He then worked with the AmericCorps Program and, for two years, was a medical advocate for the New Orleans Public Defenders Office, interviewing incarcerated clients with complex mental health and medical needs.
At P&S, Mr. Hoesterey is a captain of the P&S rugby team and finance and fundraising chair for the Columbia University Harm Reduction Outreach Network. Hosted by the Washington Heights Corner Project, this P&S club offers health services and social support to injection-drug users and people with HIV/AIDS.
Mr. Hoesterey will expand his Corner Project work this summer through his Dígame leadership responsibilities.
About Stephanie Liem Azar
Teachers remember Ms. Azar as a talented student, committed to caring for the underserved.
A gifted organist and choral singer, she was accepted at age 15 to Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music, one of the nation’s most selective conservatories.
During the summer between her first and second years at P&S, Ms. Azar was one of the first participants in the Washington Heights-Inwood Summer Spanish Language and Immersion Program, subsequently renamed “Dígame.”
“Stephanie energetically participated in morning Spanish-language immersion classes and each afternoon immersed herself in work at the Washington Heights Corner Project,” said Ana Esteban González, MD, course director and director of education at the IFAP Global Health Program.
“This program was so important to Steph,” said Jasper Liem, Ms. Azar’s brother. “Dígame made it possible for her to connect with the people she served, and being of service fed her spirit of generosity and advocacy.”
Dr. Stephen Nicholas, associate dean for P&S admissions and director of the IFAP Global Health Program, interviewed Ms. Azar when she applied to P&S and interacted with her during her summer at the Corner Project.
He described her as “this spunky, thoughtful, talented, highly empathetic individual who was quite self-disciplined—which you have to be as a musician. She aggressively pursued whatever would make her a better doctor. Stephanie’s deep concern for impoverished immigrants and the underprivileged was profoundly inspiring.”
In addition to her husband, Pablo Azar, and her brother, she is survived by her parents, Lisa and Gie Liem, of Haverford, Pa., and her maternal grandparents.