Investing in the future: A conversation with the Medical School’s Alumni Board Philanthropy Committee
Though they’re separated by age, areas of expertise and even physical location, the Philanthropy Committee members of the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Alumni Board share one important trait: a passion for supporting the next generation of physicians.
We caught up with members of the committee—chairperson Alan Glass, M.D., as well as Marc Berg, M.D., Kristina Chien, M.D., Ira Davis, M.D., Milo Meland, M.D., and Patience Reich, M.D. —to discuss how the Medical School inspired their careers, what they want other alumni to know about supporting scholarships and medical education, and why investing in today’s medical students is so important.
What is the Philanthropy Committee?
Alan Glass, Class of 1982, former assistant dean for medical student admission at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Philanthropy Committee Chair: The Medical School Alumni Board is composed of MD alumni from the Twin Cities and Duluth campuses who work together to engage alumni, support student development and advocate for Medical School priorities. We each serve on one of three committees. The Philanthropy Committee fosters engagement and a culture of giving within the alumni community.
Why do you support the Medical School through philanthropy and board service?
Marc Berg, M.D., Class of 1993, pediatric critical care physician at Stanford University:
I appreciate every day the opportunities that medicine has given me, and I would not have had were it not for the Medical School. I think back to whoever was on the admissions committee at the Duluth Campus who thought, “Yes, let's take a chance on this guy.” Because decades later, I am here at Stanford taking care of critically ill kids. And I hope that I’m making those people proud. As I've gotten older, I’ve realized that part of maximizing the gift that the U of M gave me is to give back to today’s students.
Milo Meland, Class of 1968, retired radiologist in Minneapolis: My wife and I (also a Medical School graduate) have four physicians in our family who have benefited from their training at U of M. Our strong belief is that any institution worth attending is worth supporting financially. We want to give our young physicians a strong start in their careers and in their lives.
Kristina Chien, M.D., Class of 2022, family medicine resident in St. Cloud, Minn.: My path in medical school, like many of my peers, was fraught with self-doubt, imposter syndrome, and more than a few moments of trepidation. The incredible group of faculty at the Medical School guided me through those feelings and nurtured our individual passions within the medical field. That level of support is unique among medical schools, and the emphasis on community engagement is also unique. I want to continue to support the Medical School’s incredible mission.
Ira Davis, M.D., Class of 1984, pediatric nephrologist in Cleveland: I find no better or more gratifying role than to help these exceptional students at the University of Minnesota reduce their financial burden and debt upon the completion of their medical education and clinical training.
How did the Medical School prepare you for your career?
Davis: The Medical School gave me the foundation to pursue a career in nephrology where I also developed a practical and empathetic approach in my practice of clinical medicine. I owe everything that I accomplished in my professional and academic medical career to the University of Minnesota Medical School.
Patience Reich, M.D., Class of 1997, hospitalist in Winston Salem, N.C.:
The Medical School gave me the tools to be a lifelong learner and to cultivate my curiosity. I also saw a diverse group of patients during my rotations. I rotated through Hennepin County Hospital, where I often took care of refugees from other countries. I saw Hmong patients from Saint Paul, which is where I started to build a framework for how to serve and care for patients from different cultural backgrounds. Those skills are as valid for me today as they were when I learned them.
Chien: I can confidently say that my experience at the Medical School, particularly the Rural Physicians Associate Program (RPAP) in my third year, prepared me well for entering into practice. I feel like I have a group of mentors invested in my success as a physician even after graduating. In speaking with my peers, this is definitely unique to the University of Minnesota.
Scholarships are the most popular area to support among alumni. Why are scholarships so important for medical school students?
Reich: For me as a student, scholarship support allowed me to focus on the Medical School experience and all that it had to offer. Most importantly, it allowed me to choose the specialty I was most interested in, since I knew that I would not be saddled with much debt after medical school. I could do what I truly loved and was interested in. I have been able to serve patients and communities both locally and overseas because of the freedom the scholarship support afforded me.
Glass: Working in medical school admissions, I got to know medical students well and realized how important scholarships were in their life. One of the primary stressors for students is finances and paying for medical school. So scholarships and raising money for scholarships is critical to supporting students’ mental health and well-being. This is also very good for patients. When I see a doctor, I don’t want him or her to be too stressed to do their job well.
Meland: The tremendous increase in tuition costs means the average graduate from our programs is nearly $200,000 in debt! This puts huge financial pressure on their choice of specialty and the early years of practice, which is not a sustainable pattern for the future of medicine. Scholarships are essential to provide partial relief.
Why should other Medical School alumni get involved with philanthropy?
Berg: I think it’s important for us to cultivate a culture of gratitude among our graduates. And not just older alumni but recent graduates, too. Any amount makes a difference. I know it can be strange to give back to a place where you just paid a lot for tuition, but we need to reframe how we think about it. When you give $20—or $200,000—back to the Medical School, you’re not giving it to the school itself. You’re giving a hand to the person you were just a few years ago. And that connection to your university and your community is invaluable.
Glass: I know there are so many passionate U of M alums out there who really want to contribute. And scholarships are a great thing to support because they let medical students practice in whatever area they're drawn to, no matter their salary. Areas like family practice, primary care, as opposed to perhaps more high-paying specialties. Ultimately, these are the people who will be taking care of us. Supporting them is really supporting all of us, too.
For more information about the Alumni Board and other ways to get involved, visit med.umn.edu/alumni. For more information about investing philanthropically in medical students on the Duluth and Twin Cities campuses, contact Elsa Scheie at email@example.com.