Why a billion-dollar donation to Einstein College of Medicine touched so many people

If the news of Gottesman’s gift was received with such admiration and enthusiasm, it was in part because it seemed to drown out the noise of transactionalism that resonated around so much generosity. It has rarely been louder than in recent months, when some of Wall Street’s most successful people worked to unseat university presidents whose ideologies and management styles did not align with theirs.

“There is a wonderful humility in the story,” Amir Pasicnoted, dean of Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, especially given what he described as a “shift in sentiment” among donors, who view giving as an investment rather than “a community process.” ”. This dynamic is much more common now than 20 years ago.

Einstein’s donation is the third largest ever made to an institution of higher education. (Michael Bloomberg’s $1.8 billion for Johns Hopkins, his alma mater, tops the list.) Einstein will not displace his namesake to be called the Ruth Gottesman School of Medicine, nor does his benefactor appear to demand any other form. of great institutional deference.

Ruth Gottesman has been involved with the school for more than 55 years, first as a specialist in the diagnosis and treatment of learning disabilities and then as an administrator. Dr. Gottesman knew, as Pasic said, “how sausage was made on a very intimate level.” What he noticed in particular was the gristle: how difficult it is, especially for anyone wanting to enter the primary care field, to leave school saddled with the kind of debt that $59,000-a-year tuition can bring. Nearly half of all Einstein students end up owing $200,000 or more when they leave.

The cost of medical education is a major factor driving the physician shortage that Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, president of the American Medical Association, has called a national crisis. In an October speech at the National Press Club, he said the shortfall of doctors in the United States could rise to at least 37,000 over the next decade, and could reach 100,000. One of the greatest needs is in family medicine, where the salary is usually much lower than that of the different specialties. Last year, 217 residency places in family medicine were granted vacancy, the highest of any category. By comparison, anesthesiology had only one opening: there were no residencies for plastic surgeons.