A few months before his graduation from medical school, Vladimir Yakovishin, MD’68, began to have trouble reading. Frightened by this new development and what it might mean to his career, he reached out for answers.
After a number of unsuccessful tests, then-Dean of Medicine Dr. Douglas Bocking arranged for Yakovishin to meet with a specialist in Baltimore. There, he was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a form of juvenile macular degeneration, a rare disease that leads to blindness.
“It was very frustrating they didn’t know why it was happening, but if there’s one word I would use to describe Western it would be ‘community,’” he said. “Everyone really emphasized I was one of them and I wasn’t on my own. When I went to see the Dean, I was worried about how he would react but he said, ‘We’ll see you through this,’ and then gave me a plane ticket and hotel reservation so I could go to Baltimore. It was incredible.”
Once retired, Dr. Yakovishin had more time to reflect on his experiences and his responsibility to help others. “When you go through grief, you want to give back. I’m here to help someone else. If I could do it, maybe they can do it. Everyone has a story but is there anything you can pass on to help them overcome their obstacles?” he says.
“We wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t have what we have now if it wasn’t for Western. How could we not give back? How many potential doctors are there who could do amazing things but can’t because they don’t have the finances to attend university?
I hope that everyone will consider putting what they can into the pot to help as many students as we can achieve their dreams.”
Dr. Vladimir Yakovishin
Photo: Dr. Vladimir Yakovishin and his wife Jean
His experiences have also motivated him to provide financial support to the next generation of students.
To help address that need, he and his wife established a bequest to Western that, when realized, will support the Dr. V.M. Yakovishin Family Bursary in Medicine, awarded to undergraduate medical students who demonstrate financial need, and the Yakovishin Family Fund in Ophthalmology Research, focused on juvenile or early-onset adult eye disease.