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US medical school offers free tuition after historic $1 billion donation

US medical school offers free tuition after historic $1 billion donation
Albert Einstein College of Medicine, recipient of the largest ever charitable gifts to an educational institution in the United States. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Students at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York are set to benefit from free tuition, courtesy of a historic $1 billion donation from a former faculty member, Dr. Ruth Gottesman.

Dr. Gottesman, aged 93, who served as the chair of the school's board for an impressive 55 years, made the unprecedented contribution in memory of her late husband, David “Sandy” Gottesman. Sandy Gottesman, a co-founder of First Manhattan Co., an early investor of Berkshire Hathaway, and a longtime friend of Berkshire's CEO Warren Buffett, passed away in 2022.

Philip Ozuah, president and CEO of Montefiore Medicine, the school's parent company, hailed the donation as a “transformational gift,” emphasizing that it stands as the largest contribution to any medical school in the country. The substantial endowment aims to attract talented and diverse students who might otherwise face financial barriers to pursuing a medical education.

Dr. Ruth Gottesman, who joined the medical school in 1968, expressed her gratitude to her late husband and deemed it a privilege to make such a significant contribution to a noble cause. In the past, the Gottesmans had actively engaged in healthcare philanthropy, notably contributing $25 million in 2010 to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine to establish the Institute for Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine.

The donation is set to alleviate the financial burden on medical students, addressing the growing issue of education debt. According to an October survey by the Association of American Medical Colleges, 70% of medical students who graduated in 2023 incurred some level of education debt, with an average debt exceeding $200,000.

Dr. Yaron Tomer, the dean at Albert Einstein, lauded the historic gift for revolutionizing their ability to attract students committed to the institution's mission, regardless of their financial capacity. The move follows a trend set in 2018 when former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg donated $1.8 billion to Johns Hopkins University, and philanthropists like Ken Langone invested heavily in medical education, leading to New York University's School of Medicine offering free tuition to accepted students.

The donation by Dr. Ruth Gottesman is expected to reimburse fourth-year students for the spring 2024 semester, while all students starting the fall semester in August will receive free tuition. The initiative aims to foster a new generation of healthcare leaders unburdened by substantial loan indebtedness.

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