A Testimony to Legacy and Enduring Love

Alumni Spotlight

Vanessa Tran, CRNA, MS ’18 and her husband, Chris Baker, have established the Tran-Baker Memorial CRNA Endowed Scholarship at Albany Medical College in memory of their unborn daughter, Isabelle.

The scholarship will provide $10,000 to a deserving Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist student each academic year, with preference given to candidates from underrepresented groups in medicine.

Vanessa and Chris hope that the scholarship will pay a fitting tribute to Isabelle while supporting deserving CRNA students with their degree pursuit.

“I will always have a special place in my heart for Albany Med, and I’m happy that we have a forever connection to the school through education and this scholarship that helped us heal through something that was hard for us,” Vanessa said.

On the move

The couple met as students at McGill University in Montreal, with Vanessa pursuing a nursing career and Chris preparing for work in the business world. In 2011, they moved to Boston, where Chris launched a software development consultancy, ADK Group, and Vanessa worked as a nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital for five years.

Vanessa explored the possibility of becoming a CRNA, and after looking at various programs, she chose Albany Medical College. “It made a lot of sense to apply there, because of the rolling admission process,” she said. “Albany Med made it easy to make connections with faculty and other students. It felt very intimate, and I liked the feeling of community.”

Chris remained in Boston while Vanessa completed her anesthesia studies, earning a Master of Science in nurse anesthesiology in 2018. She continues to work at Mass General as a staff nurse anesthetist.

They were expecting their first child in early 2021 when, halfway through Vanessa’s pregnancy, they learned that their unborn child had a rare neurological issue and would not survive. “We were at this point in our lives where we were so excited to welcome our first child,” Chris said. “Then, we got this horrible news. It knocked us down.”

Over time, they sought to reframe their loss and build a legacy of good in their daughter’s honor. They reached out to the Albany Medical Center Foundation to discuss a memorial scholarship fund to support deserving CRNA students. “That’s where the idea for the endowed scholarship was born, as a way to memorialize her and build a legacy out of loss,” Chris said. “We’re action-oriented people, and we felt it was a very appropriate way to honor her, support education and Vanessa’s alma mater.”

CRNAs aren’t as well-known as other practitioners in the medical community, Vanessa and Chris pointed out, and the Tran-Baker Memorial CRNA Endowed Scholarship could help to bring attention to this program and career.

“We asked ourselves, ‘what would be a way to help people like Vanessa have a pathway to prosperity?’ A CRNA has a well-paid, dynamic career, work-life balance, and flexibility,” Chris said. “If one person can get this job, it can affect generations of a family, and this endowed scholarship makes the cost of tuition less of a deciding factor.”

He and Vanessa are thrilled to be in a position to support her school, her degree program, and a deserving student each year who may otherwise go unrecognized. “Albany Med figured out how to help us give back, with preference toward a CRNA student from an underrepresented group in medicine,” Vanessa said. “We’re excited to meet the first student.”

Between the couple’s contribution and those of family and friends, they’re hoping to reach $200,000 and achieve fully endowed status in 2022. “We originally planned to fully fund the endowment ourselves, but we were encouraged to reach out to our community of family and friends and tell our story,” Chris said. “We opened it up to our community and got wonderful support. We’re looking forward to hearing the stories of our scholarship recipients and have this enduring legacy live on.”

Speaking of enduring legacies, Vanessa and Chris have one such legacy in their own family, as Vanessa gave birth to a healthy, happy boy, Calvin, in May.

Happy days

She fondly recalls her days as an Albany Medical College student. “I really liked the program. The staff was very helpful, I had a really good experience, and I liked being a learner. The school meant a lot to me. It gave me a career that I can see myself doing for 30 more years. I became a well-rounded nurse anesthetist from my training. I have a better work-life balance with my family. I’m forever grateful.”

As a native Canadian, Vanessa particularly enjoys putting her CRNA degree to work. “We don’t have nurse anesthetists there,” she said. “As a CRNA, our approach is different because we are nurses and have a different way of communicating with patients. I get my room ready, interact with surgeons and nurses, meet with patients on the day of surgery, and discuss their plan of care with the patient and team before I deliver the anesthesia. Each patient is different. I always ask if there’s anything more I should know about them, and I appreciate the time with them because they trust me with their lives. I love being a nurse anesthetist, and I love working with patients.”

Vanessa and Chris encourage alumni to give back to the school in a way that resonates with them. “Find something meaningful within the context of Albany Med in an underserved area, something you’re passionate about,” Chris said. “Our endowed scholarship solves an unmet need, which was motivating for us. Don’t be shy to leverage your community. That makes the experience more fulfilling and allows more people to be a part of the impact. It brought Vanessa and me closer together with each other and our family and friends. To be able to talk about our loss and share the stories and experiences of the endowed scholarship recipients will be meaningful.”

For Vanessa, it’s especially rewarding to be able to support fellow CRNAs in their education and future career. “I feel very fortunate to be able to do that. There are no other specific CRNA scholarships offered by Albany Med,” she said. “This makes school less of a burden for them. It feels very positive to us in so many ways.”

To support this scholarship, donors can visit online https://engage.amc.edu. Under designation, choose “Other” and write in “Tran-Baker Memorial CRNA Endowed Scholarship.” Gifts via check should be made out to Albany Medical Center Foundation with “Tran-Baker Memorial CRNA Endowed Scholarship” in the memo. Mail to Albany Medical Center Foundation, 43 New Scotland Avenue, MC-119, Albany, NY 12208-3478.