LaKay Banks knows why everyone liked her husband Cullen W. Banks, M.D., so much.
“No one was too high or too low for my husband,” she said. “He was down to earth and treated everyone with respect.”
The sincerity that Banks, the first African American physician to have full hospital privileges in Gainesville, demonstrated is what inspired the Twenty Pearls Foundation Inc. to start a golf tournament five years ago.
Banks is now retired after practicing medicine as an obstetrician-gynecologist in Gainesville for 47 years.
“We started this tournament to thank Dr. Banks, who was an avid golfer, for blazing the trail in so many ways to improve the quality of life for all in the Gainesville and Alachua County community,” said Cynthia Moore Chestnut, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Twenty Pearls Foundation and a former Alachua County commissioner.
The foundation, which is the alumni association and charitable arm of the Mu Upsilon Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., makes yearly contributions raised from the tournament to the Cullen W. Banks, M.D., Scholarship Fund, which was established by the Alachua County Medical Society in 1998 as a tribute to Banks’ influence and achievements. The scholarship is awarded every four years to an incoming first-year student at the UF College of Medicine.
“The Twenty Pearls Foundation has awarded more than $15,000 in scholarships every year to graduating girls in the county and to the Banks Scholarship,” Chestnut said.
In July, members of the sorority, including LaKay Banks, visited the UF College of Medicine to present their yearly gift and meet with Lauren Simmons, who was selected as the new Banks Scholar last year.
But this was no ordinary visit. The Banks family made a surprise gift, matching the amount of the Twenty Pearls Foundation’s donation.
“Knowing that there is a need, my family wanted to give,” said LaKay Banks, whose son Garry graduated from the UF College of Medicine in 1990. “I really appreciate the kind of relationship that’s come from this scholarship. I know Lauren’s aspiration and qualities and I cherish that.”
The donors’ hope is that Simmons and future recipients will become caring physicians who value genuine doctor-patient relationships.
To continue its support for current and future Banks Scholars, the Twenty Pearls Foundation is planning to host this year’s golf tournament on Nov. 3 at Ironwood Golf Course in Gainesville.
“We want the recipient to know that there is a community who believes in and wholeheartedly supports her goal to become a physician,” Chestnut said. “We hope that she will be committed to providing service to the underserved and open a practice here.”