The Central New York Area Health Education Center (CNYAHEC) recently announced John Paliakkara as the recipient of this year’s L. Thomas Wolff Scholarship. John, an undergraduate student in the SUNY Potsdam Rural Medical Program, aspires to become a physician. The competitive annual award is available to past CNYAHEC program participants who are entering into a clinical health professions program.

“I’m pleased to congratulate John on being selected as this year’s L. Thomas Wolff, M.D. Scholarship recipient,” said Richard Merchant, CEO of CNYAHEC. “This honor is a reflection of Dr. Wolff’s spirit, integrity, and dedication to providing care to those most in need. All of us at CNYAHEC are proud to support outstanding students, like John, on their paths to become our future healthcare providers.”

John is a former MedQuest Health Careers Exploration Camp participant. MedQuest, sponsored by SUNY Upstate Medical University and CNYAHEC, is a resident summer camp offering a week of hands-on activities, interactive workshops, and classes to introduce high school students to a variety of health career opportunities. CNYAHEC and SUNY Upstate Medical University have partnered for more than a decade to bring the popular and highly competitive program to area high school students. Last year, nearly 300 students applied for one of the 25 program openings.

“Experiential programs like MedQuest are key to engaging local students who are interested in pursuing a career in the health professions,” said Donna Vavonese, Director of Admissions at SUNY Upstate Medical Center. “Students have the opportunity to understand why it takes a team effort to provide quality patient care. They also learn how medicine is more than science — there is a human relationship component, as well. Through the MedQuest program, CNYAHEC and Upstate provide an excellent opportunity for students who wish to learn more about the many opportunities in health care.”

As an expression of gratitude, CNYAHEC established the L. Thomas Wolff Scholarship in 2014 to honor Dr. Wolff, a long-time local family physician and co-founder of the New York State Area Health Education Center (AHEC) System. Throughout his distinguished career, Dr. Wolff has been an active presence among local, state and national professional organizations. Most notably, he served as president of both the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine and the American Board of Family Medicine. Dr. Wolff is currently a Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Physician Assistant (PA) program at SUNY Upstate Medical Center, where he served as the Chair of the Department of Family Medicine for twelve years.

The L. Thomas Wolff, M.D. Scholarship is possible because of generous gifts from our community supporters. For more information regarding the L. Thomas Wolff Scholarship, or to make a tax deductible donation, please contact the CNYAHEC office at (607) 756-1090 or