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$1 billion donation pays tuition fees for all New York City medical school students in perpetuity

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. (CREDIT: Albert Einstein College of Medicine/LIFESTYLOGY /TMX)

Samuel Woo, a first-year student at a New York City medical school, had been weighing a career in cardiology to address his looming medical school debt. However, a recent announcement has changed his trajectory.

Ruth Gottesman, widow of a Wall Street investor, pledged a staggering $1 billion to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, effectively eliminating tuition fees for all four-year students immediately.


The news came as a wave of relief for Woo, whose parents immigrated from South Korea. The 23-year-old, who had been juggling tutoring and cafe work to manage expenses, expressed gratitude for the newfound financial freedom. "I was definitely very emotional, and it changes a lot," Woo remarked.

Albert Einstein College of Medicine students were shocked to hear that their remaining school years would be free. (CREDIT: Albert Einstein College of Medicine/LIFESTYLOGY /TMX)

Jade Andrade, another first-year student whose parents migrated from the Philippines to rural Virginia, shared a similar sentiment. "A big wave of relief just came over me," Andrade said, reflecting on the collective reaction of students in the auditorium.


Both Woo and Andrade articulated hopes that Gottesman's extraordinary donation would pave the way for more students from low-income immigrant families to pursue careers in medicine without the burden of financial constraints.

The significance of Gottesman's donation extends beyond its monetary value. Not only is it possibly the largest donation to any U.S. medical school, but it also holds significance due to the location of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in one of the most economically disadvantaged areas of New York City and the state.


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Woo emphasized the impact on aspiring medical professionals from marginalized backgrounds. "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...I’m hoping that the free tuition helps alleviate some of the pressure of those students," he explained.

Andrade, 30, spoke about the liberation the announcement brought, particularly for those from immigrant households where financial considerations often loom large over life decisions.


The announcement of the donation evoked a powerful response from the school community, with students and faculty rising to their feet in applause, cheers, and tears. Gottesman, 93, who has been associated with the college for over five decades and serves as the chairperson of its board of trustees, was hailed for her monumental contribution.

School officials anticipate that the elimination of tuition fees will attract a more diverse pool of applicants, although there are no plans to alter the admissions policy. The donation is expected to sustain itself indefinitely through earned interest, ensuring that all students will benefit from tuition-free education.


The current tuition at the school stands at $63,000 per year, contributing to the significant debt burden carried by medical graduates. On average, medical students graduate with over $200,000 in debt, according to the Education Data Initiative.

Samuel Woo, a first-year student at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. (CREDIT: Samuel Woo, Linkedin)

While Albert Einstein College of Medicine is located in a disadvantaged area, it is not the only institution to receive transformative donations. In recent years, other medical schools, notably NYU Grossman School of Medicine and UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, have also received substantial contributions aimed at alleviating financial barriers for students.


Gottesman attributed her ability to make such a substantial donation to her late husband, David “Sandy” Gottesman, who built a successful career in finance. She expressed gratitude for the privilege of contributing to a cause she holds dear, citing her pioneering work in the field of learning disabilities.

Dr. Ruth Gottesman, a former professor, has donated $1 billion to a Bronx medical school, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, with instructions that the gift be used to cover tuition for all students going forward. It is one of the largest charitable donations to an educational institution in the U.S. and most likely the largest to a medical school. (CREDIT: NY Times)

For students like Woo, the impact of the donation extends beyond financial relief. Woo recounted sharing the news with his mother, a typical immigrant parent reaction, he noted, but ultimately, her joy mirrored his own upon realizing the alleviation of the financial burden of tuition fees.


The donation from Ruth Gottesman not only removes a significant financial barrier for aspiring medical professionals but also symbolizes the power of philanthropy in shaping the future of medical education and healthcare access.

As students like Samuel Woo and Jade Andrade embark on their journeys in medicine, they do so with newfound hope and opportunity, thanks to the generosity of donors like Gottesman.

For more good news stories check out our Good News section at The Brighter Side of News.


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