Will a $1 Billion Medical School Donation Help Make the Bronx Healthier?

For Trevor Barker, a first-year student at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, the $1 billion gift from a longtime former professor that will eliminate tuition at the medical school could well be life-changing.

Mr. Barker works two campus jobs and sends money home to his mother in California. He had expected to graduate hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. But the free tuition has made him ponder new options for his career.

“I hadn’t really been able to consider family medicine, but I might want to,” he said.

Family medicine doctors do everything from delivering babies to caring for older people — usually in underserved communities. Mr. Barker said he might consider practicing medicine in the Bronx, even though doctors there generally earn less.

The billion-dollar donation by Dr. Ruth Gottesman made national news last week for its generosity and because of her life story. It also resonated because it did not go to a school in Manhattan, where top medical and educational institutions are regularly feted with gifts from billionaires.

Instead her gift went to the only medical school in the poorest and unhealthiest county in New York State: Einstein, a well-regarded medical school with over 1,000 students that is affiliated with a major hospital, Montefiore Medical Center. Almost immediately, doctors and health experts began to consider what effect it would have on health care in a borough with high rates of chronic diseases like diabetes and asthma, and with relatively few primary care physicians.

Dr. Gottesman’s gift is intended to help Einstein and its medical students and encourage more lower-income students to apply to medical school. It might also encourage students like Mr. Barker to practice medicine in the borough. And some health care experts and doctors were optimistic that the boon to Einstein would be felt beyond the campus, with a trickle-down effect that would eventually improve health care across the Bronx.

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