Lightening the Load
Members of the Class of 1958 pitch in to help students defray the high cost of a medical education
Their rallying cry: “Let’s make it a million!”
By the time they gather for their 55th reunion in spring 2013, members of the School of Medicine’s Class of 1958 hope the scholarship fund that bears their name will have reached a cool seven figures, extending the fund’s reach and potential impact.
“That’s what we’re anticipating and hoping for,” says William McDermott, A53, G54, M58, A84P, of Falmouth, Mass., who was instrumental in creating the M58 Scholarship Fund and now, with a Cape Cod classmate, is leading a drive to bolster it.
His 55th reunion committee cochair, Philip Sullivan, ’58, of Monument Beach, Mass., notes, “Tufts gave an awful lot to the class—to every class. With the high cost of medical education today, it’s a way of paying back and helping someone else pursue a life in medicine.”
The fund-raising effort has about $170,000 to go, McDermott says. “We’re trying to come up with some innovative ways to raise the money,” he adds, including encouraging classmates to put a charitable bequest, charitable gift annuity or other planned gift in place to add to the M58 Scholarship Fund.
“The need for scholarship support is incredible,” McDermott says. “It cost $1,000 a year when I went to medical school. A hard-working kid could make that in a summer.” Today, he says, a typical student can leave medical school with a debt of $200,000 or more.
So classmates who began their medical careers together more than a half-century ago are doing what they can to aid a new generation of Tufts doctors. The current holder of the M58 Scholarship, Dan Corrigan, ’13, grew up on Massachusetts’s South Shore in Hanover, Mass. He pursued an interest in research as an undergraduate at Stonehill College and then at Tufts, where he earned a master’s degree in biomedical science.
Then he did a stint in the emergency room at Mass. General the summer between his first and second years of medical school. Cases he saw in the ER included a heart attack, a stroke, stabbings, a pedestrian hit by a car and combatants needing stitches after a bar fight. He since has decided to focus on emergency medicine. “I like the fast pace,” Corrigan says. “I’m kind of an adrenaline junkie.”
Emergency medicine, he notes, is not among the most lucrative fields. Receiving the M58 Scholarship, which covers one-quarter of a year’s tuition, has enabled him to consider a career in ER medicine because of the reduced debt he will carry after graduation. “Medical school is crazily expensive right now,” he says. “Accruing this debt is very daunting, and having support lightens the load.”
The message he’d give his M58 benefactors: “I would like to thank them for their generosity and let them know how much it helped to put debt away, in the back of my mind. The scholarship has helped me make a decision on what type of medicine I want to practice, without debt as my main focus.”
Paying It Forward
In a recent letter to their classmates, Sullivan and McDermott noted that the class had raised more than $500,000 at its 50th reunion to establish the endowed scholarship. “We all left our reunion with a wonderful sense of satisfaction from working together to do something essential to help today’s students afford the medical education that we received and still treasure,” they wrote.
“The generous efforts of our classmates and friends over the past several years have continued to increase the value of our fund to over $830,000. That’s why we are saying, ‘Let’s make it a million.’ We know that won’t be easy. We are sensitive to the significant financial hazards and impact of the past several years. But if we work together, we can do it,” they wrote.
“We look forward to our 55th reunion in April 2013, [when] we will stand up, let out a cheer, and say, ‘Look what we have done. We made it a million!’ ”
Both reunion cochairs see the fund-raising effort as a meaningful, targeted and appropriate way to repay the medical school for the top-notch training they received as students. Sullivan, an obstetrician and gynecologist and a former longtime member of the clinical faculty at the School of Medicine, says he is grateful for the “superb” education he received at Tufts.
McDermott agrees. A retired rear admiral in the U.S. Navy, he is the former head of the Naval Medical Command, which provided health care to more than two million Navy and Marine personnel and their families around the world. His naval career took him to Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, nearly every country in South America and to Europe.
His Tufts experience paved the way, he says. “I feel honored to have been an undergrad and at medical school at Tufts,” McDermott says. “You made friendships that lasted forever.”