The kindness of strangers

The Angelika Zimmerman Medical Scholarship, the gift of an alumni couple, is making all the difference for several promising young students.

Chloe Hobson was more than a little nervous meeting the generous donor behind the scholarship she had been awarded, a scholarship that would make her final year at medical school that bit easier.

Chloe Hobson
Chloe Hobson

She knew only that Dr Hans Prem had established a scholarship at the University of Melbourne, his alma mater, for students like her who struggled financially. She was aware that the scholarship had been founded in the name of his late wife, Dr Angelika Zimmerman. But beyond these facts, she knew little about the lives of these generous donors.

Dr Prem had invited Chloe to lunch so they could learn more about each other. He wanted to talk about his late wife’s career as a child psychiatrist, the impact she had on her patients, and to explain why they had both decided to support students of medicine like her.

Despite being in different stages of life, Chloe and Dr Prem quickly found common ground. “He was so lovely to talk to,” she reflected. “He brought photos of his wife and I got to learn about her life.

I was so excited when I learned that she had worked with children because that’s one of the areas of medicine I’m interested in.

Managing through hardship

Chloe, who is almost 24, is now in her final year of her Doctor of Medicine. She will be the first doctor in her family. Chloe spent her early years in regional Victoria after her mother, Deanne, moved her young family from Melbourne to Bendigo, believing it to be a more affordable option for a single mother. She worked hard to put Chloe and her brother through the local Girton Grammar School.

Chloe’s decision to study science at Monash University meant a move back to Melbourne for her. She loved the course work, and it fuelled her interest in medicine, leading her to the University of Melbourne’s post-graduate medical program.

However, life was tough financially, with her mother helping where she could. “I was living on the bare minimum and not going out very much,” explained Chloe.

I was really just getting by. I was working part-time for a while but, with the study workload, I wasn’t managing too well.

Her benefactor is no stranger to adversity. Dr Prem, who moved to Australia from West Germany as a child, experienced his own financial struggles. He recalls being “lucky to get out alive” from the school he first attended in Melbourne’s western suburbs. Dr Zimmerman, born in East Germany, fared little better but the lives of both were changed forever when they were offered places at the University of Melbourne.

Hans Prem
Hans Prem with pictures of his late wife, Angelika Zimmerman.

Dr Prem studied mechanical engineering and went on to enjoy a distinguished career in the field, while Dr Zimmerman forged a path in medicine, specialising in child psychiatry. The decision to fund a medical scholarship to help students with an appetite to learn but not necessarily the means to do so, was Angelika’s. Her death encouraged him to start giving in his lifetime and led him also to establish the Hans Prem Scholarship for engineering students.

Dr Prem likes to meet the recipients of both scholarships each year because it reminds him of why he and his late wife embarked on their journey of giving. He knows it would make her smile.

Honouring Angelika

For Chloe, Dr Zimmerman is an inspirational woman who succeeded in making a difference in the lives of her young patients. She hopes in the fullness of her own life that she can touch the lives of others in a similarly positive way.

The Angelika Zimmerman Medical Scholarship has given peace of mind, not just to Chloe but also her mother. “She has definitely been my inspiration to work hard and achieve things,” said Chloe. “She was so proud and excited when I got this scholarship.

“I knew she worried about me and it’s a great relief to me now to know she doesn’t have to stress about me anymore. And we have Dr Prem and Dr Zimmerman to thank for that.”

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