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Free Medical School: The Jaw-Dropping, Billion-Dollar Endowment

Philanthropy happens every day in ways both big and small.

Donating those clothes in your closet that have not been touched since 2019 to The Goodwill creates employment opportunities for veterans and other populations. That volunteer time at a local animal rescue helped save an animal, transformed the lives of a new adopting family, and made the world just a little bit better for the entire process.

And then sometimes philanthropy is big. And sometimes it is mammoth.

Such is the case with the $1 billion USD gift made in late February by Ruth Gottesman to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. The gift is the largest ever given to a medical school in the United States.

There has been much public debate in the U.S. over how to keep a college education accessible to would-be students, given the exploding cost to attain a degree. For medical schools, those costs can be even higher – upwards of a quarter million dollars – and practicing also necessitates the need for a bare-pay residency that can last from three to seven years.

“This donation radically revolutionizes our ability to continue attracting students who are committed to our mission; not just those who can afford it. Additionally, it will free up and lift our students, enabling them to pursue projects and ideas that might otherwise be prohibitive. We will be reminded of the legacy this historic gift represents each spring as we send another diverse class of physicians out across the Bronx and around the world to provide compassionate care and transform their communities,” said Dr. Yaron Tomer, the Marilyn and Stanley Katz Dean at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

The school’s announcement underscored just how impactful the funds will be for all current and future students: “With this donation, all current fourth-year students will be reimbursed their spring 2024 semester tuition and, effective beginning in August of this year, all students moving forward will receive free tuition at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Albert Einstein College of Medicine was founded in 1955 with a mission to welcome all students, without restrictions. Today this gift furthers that mission by removing the financial restrictions for those without the economic means to afford medical school.”

In addition to bringing down the financial barriers and opening the doors of opportunity to their students, the nation is approaching a critical shortage of new physicians. In October of last year, the President of the American Medical Association, President Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, M.D., MPH, gave a speech that highlighted the looming crisis, citing data from the American Association of Medical Colleges that projects a national physician shortfall of at least 37,000—and possibly well over 100,000— over the next decade.

For her own part, Gottesman has been a part of Einstein since 1968, and at that time, led innovative efforts that drew attention to the intellectual and developmental learning challenges of children. She currently serves as Chair of the Einstein Board of Trustees and is Clinical Professor Emerita of Pediatrics (Developmental Medicine) at Einstein.

Gottesman and her late partner David “Sandy” Gottesman were early investors in Berkshire Hathaway. Forbes estimated that when Sandy died in 2020, the Gottesmans were worth $3 billion USD.


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