Professor Donates $1B to This School of Medicine to Make Tuition Free for Students

By: Georgia McKoy | Published: Mar 08, 2024

In a remarkable act of philanthropy, Ruth Gottesman, a 93-year-old former professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, has donated $1 billion to the institution. This unprecedented gift is designated to cover the full tuition for all students attending the medical school going forward. 

The generosity of Gottesman, a widow of a Wall Street financier, aims to alleviate the financial burden on medical students and broaden the opportunities for aspiring doctors from diverse backgrounds. The donation is one of the most substantial charitable contributions to an educational institution in the U.S., especially notable in the medical education sector.

The Gottesman Legacy

AP News reports that Ruth Gottesman’s connection to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine spans over five decades, marking a profound legacy at the institution. 

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A contemporary glass-fronted building with the sign "CENTER PAVILION" over the entrance

Source: EinsteinMed/X

Her late husband, David Gottesman, a protégé of Warren Buffett, left a significant Berkshire Hathaway stock portfolio, which is the source of this monumental donation. The funds are earmarked to ensure that future medical students can pursue their education without the daunting prospect of accumulating debt. 

A Gift Aimed at Broadening Opportunities

By eliminating tuition fees, the donation by Ruth Gottesman is set to transform the student demographic at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. 

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A packed auditorium filled with a diverse group of attendees. People of various ages and ethnicities are seated in rows, facing a stage that is not visible in the photo

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Dr. Gottesman expressed her intention for the gift to enable a more diverse range of students to consider medical education, particularly those deterred by financial constraints. She believes that this will not only benefit the students but also contribute to a healthcare system enriched by practitioners from various backgrounds. 

An Influential Friendship

The bond between Ruth Gottesman and Dr. Philip Ozuah, the CEO of Montefiore Medicine overseeing the college, played a significant role in the realization of this gift. 

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Dr. Ozuah in a dark suit, white shirt, and patterned tie stands at a clear podium, delivering a speech

Source: American Institute for Stuttering/Youtube

Their friendship, forged over shared values and a deep commitment to education and healthcare, underpinned Gottesman’s decision to make this transformative donation. 

The Donation's Impact on Student Debt

Medical school debt is a significant barrier for many aspiring doctors, with some students graduating with over $200,000 in loans.

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A group of healthcare workers in blue scrubs and white lab coats are walking away from the camera down a brightly lit hospital corridor

Source: Luis Melendez/Unsplash

Ruth Gottesman’s donation aims to lift this burden, allowing students to choose specialties based on passion rather than financial remuneration.

Gottesman's Enduring Impact on Einstein

Ruth Gottesman’s affiliation with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine is marked by her long-standing role on the board of trustees and her contributions to educational programs within the institution. 

An auditorium full of people standing and applauding enthusiastically

Source: MontefioreNYC/X

Her decision to donate such a substantial amount reflects her deep connection and commitment to the college’s mission. This act of generosity will be remembered as a pivotal moment in the institution’s history, impacting countless future medical professionals.

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The Bronx Benefits

The donation’s significance is amplified by its location in the Bronx, New York’s poorest borough with a poverty rate of 27.6%, and a high need for medical services.

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By providing free tuition, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine can attract and retain talented students who may choose to serve in similar underprivileged areas, addressing the critical need for healthcare access and improving health outcomes in underserved communities.

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Personal Testimonies of Relief and Opportunity

Samuel Woo, a first-year student at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, shared that his initial career choice was influenced by the financial burden of medical school debt. 

A young man in medical scrubs with a badge identifying him as a medical student is standing up in an auditorium, arms raised high, with a joyful expression on his face

Source: MontefioreNYC/X

With the announcement of the tuition-free initiative, he can now follow his true passion for providing medical care to the underserved populations. Woo’s story illustrates the immediate emotional and professional impact of the Gottesman donation.

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Dreams Unhampered by Financial Woes

Jade Andrade, another first-year student, echoed Woo’s sentiments, saying, “A big wave of relief just came over me and, you know, everyone surrounding me in the auditorium.”

A diverse group of people are seated in an auditorium, many are smiling and clapping, some with their hands raised, expressing joy and celebration. Several audience members are capturing the moment with their smartphones

Source: MontefioreNYC/X

The financial liberation has allowed her to reconsider her career path in medicine without the looming stress of debt repayment. 

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New Vision for Medical Education

The donation not only lifts the burden of debt but also encourages a broader and more inclusive view of who can become a physician. Andrade stated, “Growing up in an immigrant household, there are very few life decisions that you make without thinking of the financial aspects of it in terms of, you know, ‘Is this like a worthy investment of my time? This is something I want to do, but can I afford it?’”

Two women are seen in a close, emotional embrace in an auditorium full of people. One woman, with her back to the camera, has her arms around the other, whose face is visible and expresses joy and relief. Around them, blurred figures can be seen

Source: MontefioreNYC/X

Students like Woo and Andrade illustrate the potential for medical schools to attract a more diverse student body, leading to a healthcare workforce that reflects the diversity of the communities they serve.

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Alleviating the Pressure

Woo hopes the free tuition will encourage other students from low-income or first-generation backgrounds to consider a career in medicine. 

The image shows three medical professionals standing side by side, cropped from the chest down to the waist. The two people on the left are wearing blue scrubs with a stethoscope around their necks, arms crossed. The person on the right is dressed in a white lab coat with their arms casually folded, and a stethoscope also hangs around the neck

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He said, “There are people here in the Bronx who are first generation, low-income students who really want to be doctors and want to pursue medicine and want to practice here, but just aren’t able to have the opportunity, whether that’s financial reasons or lack of resources. I’m hoping that the free tuition helps alleviate some of the pressure of those students and encourages them to think of medicine as, you know, a potentially acceptable field.”

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The Gottesman Fund's Broader Impact

NBC News notes that the Gottesman family has a history of philanthropy through their foundation, supporting various educational and cultural initiatives. 

An aerial photograph captures a sprawling medical campus with a series of interconnected buildings, including a prominent multi-story, modern structure with a flat roof in the center. Surrounding the campus are residential buildings, vast green spaces, and tree-lined streets

Source: EinsteinMed/X

This billion-dollar donation is a continuation of their commitment to societal betterment, showcasing how targeted philanthropy can have a transformative effect on specific sectors, in this case, medical education, benefiting both the students and the communities they will serve.

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