U-M’s Philip Zazove – the third known deaf doctor in the U.S. – says his family’s foundation honors his mother and her work by helping deaf college students pay for school
When Philip Zazove’s parents discovered their four-year-old son was deaf in 1955, they were given a best-case-scenario they wouldn’t accept: that he’d complete special education classes, get a non-skilled job and be “functional.”
Instead, Zazove went to college, then medical school and on to become the third known deaf doctor in the country.
Today, along with his family, Zazove, M.D., clinical professor and interim chair of Family Medicine, University of Michigan, aims to help other deaf students achieve their goals through the Louise Tumarkin Zazove Foundation. The national foundation awards high-achieving deaf students with college scholarships.
“Once you get in the door, you want to open the door for other people,” says Zazove, 61, a Chicago native. “Access to education is one of the biggest barriers for people who are deaf and hard of hearing.”
The foundation is a fitting memorial for Zazove’s mother Louise who not only advocated for her son’s education rights but her own. The eldest child of poor Russian immigrants, Louise dreamed of being a physician herself but it was an era when few women –especially Jewish women – were accepted at American medical schools.
Undeterred by several rejections, Louise was ultimately accepted into Chicago Medical School as the only woman in an entering class of 92 students.
When Louise learned her son was deaf, she learned all she could about deafness, consulted experts and devoted herself to seeking the best ways to educate him. She and Zazove’s father Earl, also a doctor, made a radical decision: to send their son through public schools so he could thrive in the hearing world.
It meant adamantly protesting when teachers asked to move their son out of mainstream classes, advocating for accommodations when necessary, and even visiting skeptical college admissions directors who couldn’t believe how well their son had excelled in high school.
“My parents fought hard so that I would be treated the same as everyone else. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here,” Zazove says. “They always told me I could do whatever I wanted to do.”
“My mom really valued education because it was the reason she succeeded,” he adds. “It’s gratifying to see this foundation make a difference for other people and to help them succeed. It honors my mother. It continues her work.”
The foundation awards roughly $25,000 a year and has helped more than 25 students from around the country since being established in 2003.
The scholarship has made a big difference to recipients such as Alison Stroud, 28, who is now pursuing a master’s degree in public policy, specifically on disability rights, at U-M.
“It allowed me to focus more on school and not worry so much about paying for tuition. Additionally, having the scholarship proved to be a continual reminder that there are people besides my family who believe in me,” she says.
Stroud, who was born profoundly deaf, has spent a lot of her life convincing others of her capabilities. The three-sport, high-school athlete had to prove to basketball, volleyball and softball coaches that she was a key player when she had visual cues in the game. In high school, she worked hard not to fall behind in classes that required listening and note-taking. In social settings, she had to ask people to slow down conversation so she could read lips.
She credited the Zazoves for investing time and resources to help others through the foundation.
“I think it is amazing the Zazove family is willing to take time out of their already hectic schedules to help provide opportunities for young students so that they can continue the hard work and education they need to do to achieve their dreams,” she says.
“The Zazoves, especially, Phil, are very insightful and understanding that deaf and hard of hearing students usually, if not always, must work harder and longer hours than an average student to overcome the communication barriers and succeed.
“The Zazove Foundation did not just help me pay for my tuition. The scholarship, as well as Philip Zazove, inspired me to become a stronger advocate for people with disabilities.”
To learn more about the foundation, visit the website at http://www.ltzfoundation.org/.