The School of Medicine and Health Sciences exceeded its fundraising goal in the first-ever Match4Match challenge last month.
The school aimed to raise $15,000, which would be matched dollar-for-dollar by triple alumnus Kerry Kuhn, but donors have gifted more than $16,500 so far. Officials said the more than $31,500 in funds raised will help students pay for their education at the medical school, which can total more than $90,000 annually.
Medical school spokeswoman Lisa Anderson said scholarship support for students in the medical school is a “top philanthropic priority.” Anderson said the campaign opened with an email sent out on March 10 and continued through the end of the month. Anderson did not specify to whom the email was sent.
She said the school met and exceeded the campaign’s goal through donations to the SMHS Power and Promise student aid fund, a scholarship pool for medical school students.
“Thanks in large part to alumni support, SMHS provides scholarship support to nearly one-third of our students, enabling many to select specialties based on their calling and passions — not their financial need,” she said. “We are grateful for their support.”
Anderson declined to say how much money the medical school expected to raise in the Match4Match challenge.
Kuhn, the alumnus who provided the initial $15,000 donation, said medical school officials pitched the matching campaign to him after he offered the gift to the school. He said the program was developed because of the need to financially support medical students, whose interests are oftentimes more costly than those of other academic programs.
“The students come out of medical school with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, and one, it’s difficult for them to repay it, and two, that also influences their choice of specialty to go into,” he said.
Kuhn said he agreed to participate in the matching campaign because he is “committed to GW,” where he completed his own residency in 1977. He also attended GW for his undergraduate education and for medical school, and he has four family members who have received some kind of formal education from GW.
He said that if students are able to graduate from the medical school with little to no debt, they can more easily pay off student loans and go into fields “that they are really interested in and that there is a need for” instead of those that may hand out larger paychecks.
Kuhn added that he will visit the District at the beginning of this month to visit some of the students in the medical school who matched with their residency locations last month.
Jamie Szymanski, who recently decided to complete her residency in general surgery at GW, said she wants to stay at the University because she feels connected to the community and wants to continue to learn from faculty she considers mentors. She said the scholarship money she received will allow her financial future to be “manageable and reasonable.”
“Moving toward graduation and planning and thinking ahead, it was a big, scary thing, and then receiving these scholarships and having a sizable chunk of my debt erased is life-changing,” she said.
Szymanski said that because she has less student debt to repay, it is more “realistic” to plan for other future developments, like buying a house with her husband.
“Now, I feel very fortunate that things sort of fell into place,” she said. “Financially, it wasn’t as big of a sacrifice to get those things that I wanted. This money makes up for a sacrifice that I had to make to go through school but now is lifted.”
Shannon Mallard contributed reporting.