‘Life-altering’ donation: UCLA medical school gets an extra $46 million from impresario David GeffenDecember 3, 2019
At a time when student loans add up to more than $1.4 trillion in debt, many UCLA medical school students are graduating without owing a penny.
That’s due in large part to the largess of billionaire David Geffen, who has been funding full-ride scholarships to the prestigious institution that bears his name since 2012.
The entertainment mogul just made another large donation, adding $46 million to his initial $100 million commitment to the merit scholarship program, the university announced Monday. The $146 million contribution will fund 414 medical school scholarships over 10 years, the school said.
In total, the UCLA alum, a founding member of the DreamWorks SKG film studio, has donated more than $450 million to his alma mater.
“The Geffen Scholars program is life-altering for our students and their future patients,” Kelsey Martin, dean of the Geffen School of Medicine, said in a university release. “Mr. Geffen’s generosity has remarkable ripple effects.”
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It certainly had an impact on Allen Rodriguez’s life. Now a second-year resident at the Scripps Mercy Family Medicine program in Chula Vista, just north of the San Diego-Tijuana border, Rodriguez told the Los Angeles Times he had accumulated about $30,000 in debt from his undergraduate days and other expenses.
Four years of medical school, which at UCLA costs more than $42,000 annually in tuition and fees alone, would have added a huge burden.
According to a survey of 150 med schools conducted by the Association of American Medical Colleges, 75% of the 2018 graduates had educational debt, owing an average of $196,520.
Producer and entertainment executive David Geffen, shown here during his 2010 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has donated more than $450 million to his alma mater, UCLA. (Photo: Jason DeCrow)
The Geffen-funded scholarship not only made the decision to pick UCLA an easier one for Rodriguez, but it allowed him to focus on an area of medicine that’s not as lucrative but feels closer to his heart.
“Without looming debt from medical education, I was able to choose to go into family medicine, a field I find to be extremely challenging but one that positions me to provide care for the greatest number of people with the greatest number of issues,’’ said Rodriguez, a 2018 graduate.
UCLA said the percentage of its medical school students graduating without debt spiked since the scholarship program was funded, from 17% in June 2013 to 45% this year. Not surprisingly, applications have also risen, by more than 50%.
The huge cost of a medical education has had an impact on the health care system by making higher-paying specialties more appealing, luring candidates away from fields like primary care and pediatrics.
Last year, the New York University School of Medicine took an extraordinary step toward countering that trend by offering all the current and future students in its MD-degree program full-tuition scholarships.
UCLA is not at that stage, but the Geffen scholarships will continue to cover the costs for 20-30% of each class. The country’s most populous state is reaping the rewards, as 63% of those scholarship recipients who graduated are training in California.
“I just want to go where the need is high and where my work will make a difference,” Rodriguez told the Los Angeles Times, “where if I wasn’t there, it wouldn’t be as good.”
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