Making the Difference

Adopt-a-Doc donor, Joanne Crantz, MD '79, and medical student Kurt Isaac-Elder smile together

It’s no secret that paying for higher education is one of the biggest stresses that students face. Medical school is no exception.

In 2010, Russell Libby, MD ’79, assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), set up a scholarship fund in memory of his mother, Leona Libby Feldman, to benefit students throughout their time in medical school. His scholarship helped to initiate the Adopt-a-Doc program.

The Adopt-a-Doc Scholarship is one of several avenues alumni and friends can take to give back to the school, and one of the most direct means of providing student support. Through the program, donors are paired with medical students whom they effectively “adopt” for the duration of their time in medical school, helping to ease financial stress and offering mentorship as students go down the path of medicine.

The gift requires a minimum of $20,000 spread out over course of four years. The first Adopt-a-Doc recipients graduated in 2015. To date, 11 have graduated from the program and another 17 are currently pursuing their medical degrees. Five members of the incoming Class of 2021 will soon be identified to receive the special scholarship.

Joanne Crantz, MD ’79, associate clinical professor of medicine at SMHS, was inspired to give back with a scholarship in memory of her father Bernard Gittleson, not only because of her medical education, but also because of the lessons she learned from her father, who was unable to complete his own education due to financial difficulty. “My father was always encouraging of [students] and making sure they had an avenue to succeed,” she explained. “I read an article about the Adopt-a-Doc program and thought it would be a good way to honor my father.”

Fourth-year medical student Kurt Isaac-Elder applied for the Adopt-a-Doc scholarship never imagining that he would be selected as a recipient. “I was surprised, happy, humbled, and honored,” he said. “It has definitely helped ease the financial burden of paying for medical school.”

Like his donor, Isaac-Elder had family encouragement to pursue great things. “My mother is a nurse,” he said, “and always supported my dreams, whether I pursued medicine or engineering.” Isaac-Elder is still deciding what his focus will be; he is on the fence between surgery and pediatrics, but credits the Adopt-a-Doc Scholarship with providing him the financial freedom to make the choice.

For Crantz, it was important not to be anonymous in her donation. She and Isaac-Elder initially met at the 2015 Power and Promise dinner and have kept in touch since they were matched, getting together for brunch and meeting each other’s families.

The experience has inspired Isaac-Elder to be a donor himself down the road. “It’s a great program, and I wish more alumni participated in it so that more students could benefit from this kind of relationship [with their donor,]” he said. “It was great to have access to Dr. Crantz and learn about her experience as a doctor and lifelong resident of the area.” Both Crantz and Isaac-Elder are D.C. natives.

This Adopt-a-Doc Class of 2018 also includes five other students and their donors.

Learn more about the Adopt-a-Doc program.

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