Fall 2013

A Double Helping

The medical school’s policy of matching donations makes generosity the rule

By Heather Stephenson and Kristin Livingston

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Robert, ’69, and Joan Blackman at home in Mailbu, California. Photo: Genaro Molina

Robert Blackman, ’69, learned much more than facts in medical school. “Tufts distinguished itself by teaching me an attitude,” he says. “Medicine isn’t a job; it’s a mission. And you need to understand your patients as not just a collection of organs, but as a whole person.”

Wanting to help more medical students learn this approach, Blackman and his wife, Joan, a physical therapist, have endowed the new Robert A., M69, and Joan S. Blackman Foundation Scholarship at Tufts University School of Medicine. They made their gift as part of the ongoing Financial Aid Initiative, which matches any newly established scholarship or an additional contribution to an existing scholarship of $100,000 or more.

“I hope [the scholarship] will preserve an old-school approach to medicine that is patient-centered and humanistic,” Blackman says. “You want to be a servant-healer. Tufts is carrying that message.”

While modern technologies are marvelous tools for diagnosis and treatment, Blackman says, doctors should never use them in lieu of a traditional thorough history and physical exam. Listening closely to the patient is the key to reaching an accurate diagnosis more quickly, avoiding unnecessary tests and consultations and decreasing costs, he has learned. “Even more importantly, you bond with the patients and gain their trust,” he says.

Blackman speaks from his experience as an internist and longtime regional medical director of HealthCare Partners Medical Group, which serves more than 1 million patients in six states and is poised to grow even more, he says. “We just practice the way Tufts taught us,” he adds. “I’ve been very blessed and very fortunate to be in the position to pay it forward.”

As of midsummer, the following donors had joined Blackman in either creating new endowed scholarships or adding to existing scholarships through the Financial Aid Initiative:

Thomas Rockel, ’61 

Fifty-six years ago when Rockel first stepped through the doors of Tufts Medical School, “my tuition was about the cost of what you’d pay for a cheap car today,” he says. “Things have changed.” In many ways, they’ve changed for the better, thanks to generous alumni. Three years ago, Rockel and his wife, Norma, established the Jaharis Challenge Rockel Scholarship Fund, responding to a matching challenge that named a Sackler Center classroom after them and created a $100,000 scholarship. When they learned that the university would once again match gifts dollar for dollar, they gave another $100,000, which will be doubled. “Tufts provided me with the credentials and training to do well,” he says. “I wanted to pass on that opportunity.”

Rockel’s appreciation of Tufts School of Medicine not only comes from his time as a student; he had a fellowship at Tufts and was an assistant clinical professor of pediatric neurology in the mid-1970s. He later ran a private neurology practice in Garland, Texas.

The Family of Meyer “Mike” T. Weissman, ’31 

Known as “Dr. Mike” to his patients and family, Weissman was “small in stature, but big in heart,” says his son, Bob Weissman, A03P. Dr. Mike moved to the United States from Russia with his family as a child. He was the youngest of six and the first in his family to graduate from college and then medical school. He made house calls until illness prevented that, close to the end of his 52-year practice as an allergy and pulmonary specialist in Elizabeth, N.J.

Says his son, “My father gave me and my siblings a clear sense of right and wrong, of fairness, honesty and respect for others, regardless of skin color, religious background or place of origin. Through his work ethic, he set an example and made it possible for us to enjoy educational opportunities at far less personal sacrifice than he experienced.” Dr. Mike’s family is assisting aspiring physicians through the Meyer T. Weissman, M31, Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Benjamin, ’39, ’73P, and Rosalie Shapero, ’73P

At 101, Ben Shapero still plays tennis or golf six times a week. “He doesn’t sit still too much, unless he’s reading,” says his wife of nearly 70 years, Rosalie. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family in 1912 in Bangor, Maine, Shapero served as a major in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. After the war, he returned to Bangor, where he practiced pediatrics for 56 years before retiring with his wife to West Palm Beach, Fla.

The family’s devotion to Tufts Medical School runs three generations deep: their son, Paul Shapero, ’73, ’17P, followed in his father’s footsteps in pediatrics; Paul’s wife, Jane Laeger, ’79, ’17P, is an obstetrician/gynecologist. Granddaughter Kayle Shapero, ’17, donned her white coat in Boston this fall. The Shaperos created the newly endowed Benjamin L. Shapero, M.D., Scholarship Fund simply because “Tufts has been very good to us,” says Rosalie Shapero. “And we want to support bright, young people.”

John, A89P, A91P, and Betty Eliopoulos  

John Eliopoulos says his biggest role model during his 40-year career in general and vascular surgery was his mother, Adiamandia. At 16, she came to the United States from Greece, married shortly after and settled in Lowell, Mass., where she raised her 13 children. After retiring from medicine, Eliopoulos wanted to honor his devoted mother and make a medical education possible for others. His son, Steven Eliopoulos, A89, had an idea: Make a gift to Tufts University School of Medicine in her name.

Steven and his brother Michael, A91, earned their undergraduate degrees from Tufts, but no one in the family, including their brother Peter, had attended Tufts Medical School. But, notes Steven Eliopoulos, “some of my father’s memorable and formative years as a physician were spent during his training at New England Medical Center,” now Tufts Medical Center.

Together with their sons, John and Betty Eliopoulos have endowed the Adiamandia L. Eliopoulos Scholarship Fund to help fourth-year medical students defray costs as they prepare for residency. It will be a fitting tribute to a matriarch whose name came from the Greek word for “diamond.” Says John Eliopoulos, “She was a true gem.”

Edward, A49, ’53, and Marcia Nalebuff 

Though the couple established the Edward A. Nalebuff Scholarship Fund 30 years ago, Edward Nalebuff says he still feels “I owe so much to Tufts.” That’s why he didn’t hesitate to increase his scholarship to have his gift matched by the school when the Financial Aid Initiative launched. He wanted to help even more deserving students than he’d already done for decades.

Nalebuff retired as chief of hand surgery at New England Baptist Hospital in 2003. He remains a clinical professor of orthopedics at Tufts. An active alumnus, Nalebuff founded the Tufts orthopedic alumni club known as the Arthur A. Thibodeau Group, in honor of his former professor. Nalebuff always tells his medical students: “I’ve never worked a day in my life,” because, he says, “Even though I’ve been seeing patients for 60 years, I would have done it all for free. That’s how much I love my work. And none of this would have been possible without Tufts.”

Kenneth, ’53, A88P, and Patricia Nanian

It was a letter from an old classmate and a matching gift challenge that made Kenneth Nanian realize that now was the perfect time to do what he’d always wanted: give back to the school that had fulfilled his childhood dream of becoming a doctor—and with double the impact. When Nanian received a letter from his friend Edward Nalebuff, A49, ’53, asking him to think about a contribution to the Financial Aid Initiative, Nanian immediately wanted to aid the cause, but how? Fortunately, Nalebuff’s letter offered an answer: A law had been passed allowing tax-free transfers of IRA funds to philanthropic causes for those of a certain age. “It was perfect,” Nanian says. Medical school tuition was $400 a year when he and Nalebuff were first-year students, and had risen to $800 by the time they graduated. “It was expensive, but something you could pay off with a good summer internship,” Nanian points out. “But that’s nothing compared to the sums today.”

With the Patricia and Kenneth Nanian, M53, A88P, Scholarship Fund, “we’re helping future doctors fulfill their missions to go to medical school,” he says. He credits the medical school for giving him the “wonderful opportunity to practice medicine” as a cardiologist in Rhode Island. “I owe the school a lot.”


Twice the Impact

To boost scholarships for medical students, the Financial Aid Initiative is offering a dollar-for-dollar match of unrestricted scholarship gifts, doubling their impact. To qualify, a gift must be:

An Endowed Scholarship: A pledge of $100,000 or more (payable over two years), or a pledge of $250,000 or more (payable over five years)

A Term Scholarship: A pledge of $60,000 or more (payable over four years)

Pledged by June 30, 2014.

For more information, contact Rebecca Scott, senior director of development and alumni relations, at 617.636.2777 or rebecca.scott@tufts.edu.

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