Carrying It Forward
These four alums provide support and guidance for the next generation of caregivers
At Commencement each year, new graduates of Tufts School of Medicine are poised for leadership in their professions and beyond. They carry both skills and values into the world, but the process doesn’t necessarily end there. As mentors, donors and teachers, the four alumni profiled here have used their diverse talents to enhance the education of medical students. They’ve found it’s a gratifying way to extend and deepen the value of everything precious they’ve picked up along the way.
Lessons in giving back came early to Abram M. London, ’61, A84P, a primary-care physician with a concierge practice in Chestnut Hill, a Boston suburb. “My parents were first-generation Americans who felt they owed this country something,” says London. “America provided a welcoming homeland to our family who were fleeing anti-Semitism. We were taught to give back.”
As a medical student, London absorbed another life-changing lesson: that medicine is about compassion as well as science. “I was very fortunate to learn from doctors who constantly reminded us we were treating human beings, not machines,” he says. “Each one was a great physician and an incredible human being.”
London brings these early lessons together through the Abram M. London Fund for Compassionate Care. Established in 1981, the endowed fund helps Tufts medical students become more compassionate and effective caregivers.
Supported by the fund, the Department of Psychiatry created a program in which third-year students meet weekly with a staff psychiatrist and internist to reflect on the quality of their interactions with patients.
London helped craft a brochure to invite his patients to join him in funding the program. “We can’t turn students loose and hope they learn on their own how to interact well with patients,” he says. “Patient care is an art that must be passed on.”
Jack Tsai, ’06, appreciates the abiding relationships students forge during medical school. This shapes his contributions to the education of future doctors. Serving on the Executive Council of the Tufts Medical Alumni Association, he organizes events that connect alumni with each other and the school.
An associate director at Sanofi Oncology, a global pharmaceutical company with offices in Cambridge, Mass., Tsai also volunteers as a teacher and mentor to medical students.
“Medical school can be overwhelming,” he says. “You’re exposed to so much information and so many classes and tests. You can lose sight of interests that make you happy beyond medical school. I want to fix that.”
Tsai regards the School of Medicine’s community-service program as an opportunity for students to rekindle passions and better balance their lives. “Committing 50 hours over four years, students develop substantial projects,” he says. “They remember what else is important to them. One student’s project benefited blind residents of a village in Ghana. Others found ways to apply their skills in photography and dance.”
And as a volunteer teacher in Tufts’ Problem-Based Learning (PBL) program, Tsai meets for two hours every week with six first-year medical students, coaching them as they work through clinical case scenarios.
“I get to work with some of the smartest students on Earth who are so enthusiastic for medicine,” he says. “They have to synthesize a lot of information and think clinically to diagnose and treat the patient. Each student brings different strengths to the process. As they come to appreciate each others’ different approaches and personalities, they learn to work as a team and trust one another.”
Right from the start of their first year, Tufts medical students begin working with patients through the Competency-based Apprenticeship in Primary Care (CAP) program.
“I love providing students with their first clinical exposure,” says Lynn Porter, ’90, a volunteer CAP mentor who runs Porter Pediatrics, a private practice in Boston’s South End.
“Material they’ve studied becomes real experience. For example, when opening the airways of a child with an asthma attack, I told my students his oxygen would drop,” says Porter, who has won many teaching awards. “After observing it happen, one student said, ‘Now, I get it.’ Such moments are magic.”
Porter values CAP for accelerating students’ transition from classroom to clinic. “My first two years focused on hard science. We only entered clinical settings in the third and fourth years,” she says. “CAP gets students into clinical environments sooner. Here, they become part of my team.”
Porter guides students as they learn to take a meaningful patient history, examine a child and put the information together into a diagnosis. “They also contribute knowledge,” says Porter, whose students counsel teenage patients on obesity and safe sex. “It’s a give and take. We learn from each other.
“I see students evolve into caregivers,” she says. “By the time they start third-year rotations, they’re ready to go.”
R. Paul St. Amand, A48, M52, continues to find inspiration in the speech he heard at his Tufts Medical School commencement more than 60 years ago.
The speaker was Leonard Carmichael, A21, H37, the son of a physician who served as president of Tufts University from 1938 to 1952. “He began by saying that while he was speaking to all of us, he was addressing the medical school graduates in particular,” says St. Amand. “He told us, ‘We have taught you a noble trade, but we have not given you an education. Now we have given you the means to do so. Go forth and educate yourselves.’
“I felt he was telling us that we were given the means to lead and give back,” St. Amand says. “I’ve reflected on his address over and over again.”
Describing himself as a lifelong learner and teacher, St. Amand maintains a private practice in Marina del Rey, Calif., and conducts research in the treatment of fibromyalgia, a condition that affects him and three of his daughters. He is also an associate clinical professor of medicine in the Department of Endocrinology at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, where he has been teaching for 58 years.
In 1983, St. Amand donated $25,000 to name a study and conference room in the Hirsh Health Sciences Library in the Arthur M. Sackler Center for Medical Education. In 2013, he and his wife established the Janell and Paul St. Amand, A48, M52, Scholarship Fund, with a $100,000 gift that was doubled by a match from the ongoing Financial Aid Initiative.
He is also a faithful contributor to the school’s annual fund for more than two decades, making a yearly gift of $10,000 to the fund since 2002, when he celebrated his 50th reunion. “Although it’s satisfying to tag one’s name to a physical structure during a capital campaign,” he says, “each year, the school has salaries to pay and supplies to buy. The annual fund supports the medical school and helps students, too.”
How You Can Help
To learn more about establishing a scholarship through the Financial Aid Initiative or for information about displaying brochures about Tufts University School of Medicine in your practice, please contact Rebecca Scott, senior director of development and alumni relations, at 617.636.2777 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information about teaching in the Problem-Based Learning program or the CAP program as well as other volunteer opportunities at the medical school, go to medicine.tufts.edu/alumni. Another way to lend a hand at Tufts School of Medicine is to help teach the patient interviewing course. To learn more, see “Tell Me More.”
Tufts’ Leadership Giving Societies recognize alumni, parents and friends who contribute at a leadership level to the Fund for Tufts Medicine in a single fiscal year. Societies exist at the $1,000, $2,500, $5,000, $10,000, $25,000 and $50,000 levels. Last year, more than 600 members had a significant impact on the school by joining a Leadership Giving Society.
Building on this tradition, the Dean’s Inner Circle has been established to keep pace with current initiatives and needs across the medical school and to sustain excellence in medical education. The Dean’s Inner Circle honors all alumni who contribute $100 or more for each year since their graduation.
To learn more about how you can support Tufts School of Medicine, visit medicine.tufts.edu/giving.