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    Sunday, April 21, 2024

    Record-setting $1 billion gift will allow medical school to go tuition-free

    This undated photo provided by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine shows the college in New York. The medical school will be tuition-free for all students from now on thanks to a $1 billion donation from a former professor, the widow of a Wall Street investor. Ruth Gottesman announced the gift and its purpose to students and faculty at Albert Einstein College of Medicine on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, bringing some in the audience to tears and others to their feet, cheering. (Jason Torres/Albert Einstein College of Medicine via AP)

    NEW YORK — Students at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx will no longer have to pay tuition after a longtime professor donated $1 billion to the school, removing a major financial hurdle to becoming a physician in a historically underserved borough.

    The gift by Ruth Gottesman, chairwoman of Einstein’s Board of Trustees, is considered the largest gift made to a medical school in the country, according to a press release.

    “l feel blessed to be given the great privilege of making this gift to such a worthy cause,” Gottesman said in a statement.

    Gottesman, a retired pediatrics professor who spent 55 years of her career affiliated with the Bronx medical school, developed a widely used screening test for children with learning disabilities and founded a trailblazing adult literacy program.

    Her husband, David S. Gottesman, counted Warren Buffett among his mentors and left his wife a large portfolio of Berkshire Hathaway stock when he died in 2022, the New York Times reported. Gottesman thanked him for making the donation possible.

    “I am very thankful to my late husband, Sandy, for leaving these funds in my care,” Gottesman said.

    Einstein will be permanently tuition free starting next school year. Students in their last year of medical school who already paid for this semester will be reimbursed, school officials said.

    More than 1,000 students attend Einstein’s medical, Ph.D., and postdoctoral research programs. They join a small but growing number of medical students, including those at New York University, who will graduate without the steep debt of tuition.

    “This donation radically revolutionizes our ability to continue attracting students who are committed to our mission, not just those who can afford it,” said Dr. Yaron Tomer, the dean of Einstein, an affiliate of Montefiore Health System, the largest hospital in the Bronx.

    “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,” the statement continued.

    The Bronx experiences some of the worst health disparities in the state. In annual county health rankings, the borough came in last out of 62 counties in New York based on a variety of health factors and outcomes, the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute found.

    According to the study, 21% of Bronx residents reported that they consider themselves in fair or poor health, compared to 12% in the state overall. The average life expectancy in the borough was 78 years old, more than two years younger than throughout New York.

    Gottesman said well over 100 students enter Einstein each year, who graduate with the skills necessary to serve patients in the Bronx and elsewhere.

    “They leave as superbly trained scientists and compassionate and knowledgeable physicians,” Gottesman said, “with the expertise to find new ways to prevent diseases and provide the finest health care to communities here in the Bronx and all over the world.”

    In 2020, there was just one primary care physician for every 1,540 people in the Bronx, compared to a ratio of one doctor to 1,170 New Yorkers throughout the state, according to the University of Wisconsin study.

    Jasper Sim, 24, told the Daily News that the free tuition will be a “tremendous help and a weight off the shoulders of students,” especially for his classmates from low-income backgrounds. He plans to go into internal medicine and said he would consider staying in the Bronx after he graduates in the spring next year.

    “I hope the free tuition attracts an ethnically and economically diverse student body,” he said, “that is … motivated to address the health disparities in the Bronx.”

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