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Dental Student Jeff Choi First of Coleman-Munger Scholars

Ann Arbor, MI — January 13, 2015 — A University of Michigan dental student has the distinction of being in the first group of professional and graduate students to help build a “community” that will foster multi-disciplinary thinking and interaction that, ultimately, will lead to creative approaches to solving some of society’s complex problems.

Jeffrey Choi, in the second year of his studies at the School of Dentistry, was recently selected as one of five Coleman-Munger Scholars.  They will live in a new residence hall where students from all 19 U-M graduate schools will work to build strong professional and personal networks by collaborating on challenges outside their chosen field of study.  More than 600 students will be involved.

Choi said he “jumped at the opportunity” to become a Coleman-Munger Scholar when he learned about it in an e-mail sent to dental students by Dr. Renée E. Duff, assistant dean for Student Services.  Talking about his diverse background in biomedical engineering, business and entrepreneurship, patent law, and now dentistry, Choi said “the concept resonated with me.”

Today’s Problems Require Multidisciplinary Approach

Reflecting on his personal experiences, he said, “We can become experts in our particular field of study.  But today, most problems cannot be solved with a uni-disciplinary approach.  We need to work in groups and collaborate with colleagues from different professions early on so we can prepare ourselves for the multi-disciplinary problems we will encounter in the real world.  This will be a great way to do that.”

After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in biomedical engineering from Johns Hopkins University in 2009, Choi spent two years as a patent examiner for biomedical devices in Alexandria, Virginia.  He then moved west and was a dental assistant and volunteer at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles from 2011 to 2013. 

During those two years, Choi’s interest in dentistry took root.  He shadowed nine or ten dentists “two or three days a week for about a year.”  The dentists included general practitioners and specialists in prosthodontics, periodontics and endodontics.  “All of them highly recommended the University of Michigan School of Dentistry,” he said, “so I finished up my pre-dental requirements at UCLA in Westwood, before applying to Michigan, where I was accepted last year.”

Getting the Word Out

As a Coleman-Munger Scholar, Choi said in the months ahead he will talk to graduate and professional students at the schools of dentistry, public policy, and law, as well as administrators and students in government at the Rackham School of Graduate Studies.  “I want them to know more about this exciting new opportunity that could help them now and in the years ahead,” he said.

Named for former U-M President Mary Sue Coleman and investor and philanthropist Charles Munger, a U-M alumnus, the Coleman-Munger Scholars program was launched in 2013.  A $110 million gift of securities from Munger is being used to support his vision for a new state-of-the-art residence hall on the Central Campus designed to foster a community where graduate students from multiple disciplines can live and exchange ideas.  The gift is the largest single donation to the university of its 196-year history.

Coleman said the Munger Graduate Residences “are designed to break down the intellectual barriers between students.”  The eight-story, 370,000 square foot facility, now being built on East Madison Street between South Division and Thompson Streets, is scheduled for occupancy in August.

Munger, who studied mathematics at U-M in the 1940s, has been vice chair of Berkshire Hathaway since 1978.  He has been a major benefactor to U-M, lectured at various schools and colleges on the campus, and has advised the university on its investments.