Medical School Alumnus and Wife Donate $1 million for Scholarships

August 17, 2006

Robert Brent, M.D., Ph.D., and his wife, Lillian, have donated $1 million to the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry as part of an effort to increase funds for scholarships.

Brent, a Rochester native and an internationally known physician and researcher, received all of his education through the University of Rochester. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the college in 1948, his medical degree from the School of Medicine in 1953 and his doctorate in embryology and radiation biology in 1955. Lillian Brent, also a Rochester native, graduated from the college in 1950.

The School of Medicine has named the white coat ceremony for incoming medical students in honor of Brent and his wife. The ceremony takes place Friday Aug. 18.

The School of Medicine’s Scholarship Initiative is an effort to address the burden of student debt, which is a major issue for medical students. Ninety-seven percent of the medical students in the Class of 2005, for example, borrowed money to attend the School. Their average debt at graduation was $134,000. In October 2004, the medical school set a goal of raising $10 million in additional scholarship funds within three years. So far, the campaign has raised $7.7 million.

The Brent gift calls for a novel reinvestment strategy. The income generated by the principal in the main fund will be allocated to a starting scholarship fund for each medical school class in their first year. The gift would become part of the endowment of the University and be invested. Each class then also would donate to the fund, thereby increasing its value. The money in the main fund would be retained to support successive class funds. As the total amount of money in the class funds increases, scholarships would increase. Brent’s dream is to build a large enough fund to support a tuition-free medical school.

“With their extraordinarily generous gift, the Brents have created an innovative approach to ensuring that their initial contribution will have a multiplier effect for successive medical school classes,” said David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., Dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry. “This program will therefore have a far greater impact on easing the enormous debt burden experienced by our medical students than would have occurred without the reinvestment component.”

“The hope for a tuition-free School of Medicine and Dentistry is in our grasp if Brent’s successors continue the scholarship with the same spirit,” Guzick said.

Incoming School of Medicine Students will receive their white coats in a ceremony Friday Aug. 18 at the Interfaith Chapel on the University’s River Campus that begins at 9:30 a.m. The Brents will be honored and presented a plaque at the ceremony.

White coats symbolize the entry of the students into the medical profession. The students in the incoming class also have written a code of conduct that they will recite at the ceremony.

Brent, who received a scholarship when he attended medical school, today is the Distinguished Louis and Bess Stein Professor of Pediatrics, Radiology, and Pathology and head of the Clinical and Environmental Teratology Laboratory at Jefferson Medical College and duPont Hospital for Children. He was chairman of Jefferson’s Department of Pediatrics for almost 30 years. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

Brent is an internationally-recognized and frequently-consulted expert in the effects of radiation, drugs and chemicals on the developing embryo and child. During his career, he has published more than 400 research articles.

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