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$1 Billion Donation Will Provide Free Education at Bronx medical school

The 93-year-old widow of a Wall Street investor has given the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx $1 billion, with the requirement that the gift be applied towards future education for all students.

The donor, Ruth Gottesman, was a professor at Einstein before, where she oversaw literacy programmes, created a screening exam, and conducted research on learning disorders. It is among the biggest gifts ever made to a US educational institution and probably the biggest ever given to a medical school.

Her late husband, David Gottesman, also known as Sandy, was a protégé of Warren Buffett and had invested early in the company that Buffett founded, Berkshire Hathaway. Sandy is the source of her money.

The donation is remarkable not only for its enormous amount but also for its intended use—a medical facility in the Bronx, the most impoverished neighbourhood in the city. The Bronx is New York’s unhealthiest county, with a high percentage of early fatalities. The wealthiest borough of the city, Manhattan, has seen a number of billionaires donate hundreds of millions of dollars to renowned hospitals and medical schools over the past several years.

According to Dr. Gottesman, her gift will help incoming medical professionals start their careers debt-free—medical school debt can easily surpass $200,000. In addition, she hoped that more individuals who otherwise could not afford to attend medical school would be admitted as students.

Dr. Gottesman had a long career at Einstein, a prestigious medical school of education, beginning in 1968 when she accepted a position as director of psychoeducational services. Her husband operated an investment firm, First Manhattan. She has served as chair of Einstein’s board of trustees for a considerable amount of time.

She has grown close to Dr. Philip Ozuah, the paediatrician who serves as the chief executive officer of the health system and is in charge of the medical college and its connected hospital, Montefiore Medical Centre, in recent years. What to do with the money her husband had left her was a major concern as she considered that relationship and trust.

During a Friday conversation at the Morris Park campus of Einstein, Drs. Ozuah and Gottesman discussed the donation, its origins, and its implications for Einstein medical students.

The Bond of Friendship in Education

Dr. Gottesman became close friends with Dr. Philip Ozuah, who oversees the medical college and its affiliated hospital, Montefiore Medical Center.

The two took a 6 a.m. flight to West Palm Beach, Florida, in early 2020, and sat next to one other. They had never spent hours together before.

They talked about the things they had in common as well as their childhoods—hers in Baltimore and his, some thirty years later, in Nigeria. Both held doctorates in education and had worked for their whole lives to assist underprivileged children and families at the same Bronx-based organisation.

Before rising to the top of medical school, Dr. Ozuah talked about how he moved to New York not knowing a single person in the state and worked for years as a community doctor in the South Bronx.

As they approached the curb after exiting the airport, Dr. Ozuah extended an arm to Dr. Gottesman, who was not yet ninety years old. He laughed as he remembered that she waved him off and instructed him to “watch your own step.”

The coronavirus brought the world to a complete stop in a matter of weeks. The new disease struck Dr. Gottesman’s 90-year-old husband, who only had a minor illness. To transport the Gottesman family to Montefiore, the biggest hospital in the Bronx, Dr. Ozuah dispatched an ambulance to their Rye, New York, home.

Dr. Ozuah started visiting the couple’s home every day while wearing protective gear in the weeks that followed to see how Mr. Gottesman was doing. He explained, “That’s how the friendship evolved.” “I visited them in Rye probably every day for about three weeks.”

Dr. Gottesman was recruited to lead the medical school’s board of trustees by Dr. Ozuah around three years ago. Despite her experience, she was taken aback by her age. She told Dr. Ozuah at the time that the gesture made her think of the story of the lion and the mouse, in which the mouse tells the lion, “Maybe someday I’ll be helpful to you,” after the lion spares the mouse’s life.

The lion in the tale chuckles arrogantly. “However, Phil didn’t say ‘ha, ha, ha,'” she observed, grinning.

The Cash

Dr. Gottesman’s husband left her a large stock portfolio with instructions to “do whatever you think is right with it,” she said.

At age 96, Dr. Gottesman’s spouse passed away in 2022. She recalled, “He left me a whole portfolio of Berkshire Hathaway stock, which I was unaware of.” “Do whatever you think is right with it,” was the straightforward directive, she recalled.

She didn’t think about it at first since it was too much. However, her kids urged her to wait no longer than necessary.

She noted that as soon as she concentrated on the bequest, she knew exactly what she intended to do. “My goal was to provide funding to students for education at Einstein so that their tuition would be free,” she stated. She stated there was enough money to do it forever.

She has conducted interviews with several potential Einstein medical students over the years. Over $59,000 in tuition is required year, and many graduates leave medical school crippled by debt. After graduation, over half of the students owing more than $200,000, according to the institution. Less than 25 percent of newly graduated physicians from most other medical schools in New York City owed that much.

Nearly 60% of Einstein’s first-year medical students are female and nearly half are native New Yorkers. Approximately 48% of the current medical students at Einstein are Caucasian, 29% Asian, 11% Hispanic, and 5% Black.

She believed that her donation would allow more aspirants to apply to medical school for education and that future students would be able to start their careers without having to worry about debt. “We have excellent medical students, but this will make medical school more accessible to many other students whose financial situation prevents them from even considering it,” the spokesperson stated.

That’s why this present brings me such joy, she continued. In addition to helping Phil, I have the chance to significantly impact Montefiore and Einstein, and I’m both really thrilled and humbled that I was able to accomplish this.

In December, Dr. Gottesman informed Dr. Ozuah that she would be giving him a significant gift. She brought to mind the tale of the lion and mouse. She clarified that this was the mouse’s turn.

“What would you do if someone offered you a transformative gift for the medical school?” she questioned.

Dr. Ozuah indicated there were probably three things.

He started, “One, you could have free education —”

She declared, “That’s what I want to do.” He never brought up the other concepts.

Occasionally, Dr. Gottesman ponders what her late spouse would have thought of her choice.

Muhammad Imran
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