For Release: November 26, 2013
Contact: Derik Hertel, (603) 650-1211 or Derik.Hertel@Dartmouth.edu
Medical School Graduate's $1 Million Gift for Scholarships Opens New Paths to a Dartmouth Medical Education for NH Students
Hanover, NH—Four decades ago, Norm Payson, MD, would not have become a doctor and healthcare leader had it not been for scholarship support. Dr. Payson, a 1973 graduate of Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine, now wants to make sure aspiring physicians are not held back from their dreams because of the heavy cost of a medical education.
Dr. Payson, a Hopkinton, NH resident, and his wife, Melinda, have made a $1 million gift to Geisel to boost student scholarships. The gift will help students from New Hampshire not only attend medical school at Dartmouth but also be able to choose their field of medicine based on their interests and passion for improving lives, rather than selecting a specialty due in part to the pressure of repaying a large student debt. The new $1 million gift brings the Paysons' total giving for student scholarships at Geisel to $3.5 million.
"Like other alumni, I felt very grateful to the medical school since I was a scholarship student myself, and didn't have the financial means to go to medical school," says Dr. Payson. "This medical school helped me a thousand years ago when I went to school, so that was heavy on my mind. And every time I visit Geisel and have an interaction with the students, teachers and leadership, I always feel so good about it, and it makes me optimistic about life.
"I see the students, how intelligent, enthusiastic and idealistic they are, how hard they're working, and it makes me much more optimistic about this profession and about our society," says Payson, a member of the Geisel School of Medicine's Board of Overseers.
This medical school helped me a thousand years ago when I went to school, so that was heavy on my mind. And every time I visit Geisel and have an interaction with the students, teachers and leadership, I always feel so good about it, and it makes me optimistic about life.
—Dr. Norm Payson (Med'73)
For Geisel fourth-year medical student Jody Epstein, receiving funding from the Payson Scholarship and other sources has made becoming a primary care doctor possible.
"Attending medical school would be impossible for me without scholarship support, as I am from a humble background and am raising two children as I go through school," says Epstein, a native of Concord, NH. "I am immensely grateful to scholarship donors like the Paysons for the honor of my medical education. I would not be able to have the pleasure of learning science and serving patients, without scholarships.
"Receiving scholarship support also means that my medical debt is much more manageable. I can now commit to primary care—which is not the most lucrative medical specialty—without being as concerned about earnings down the road. There is no question in my mind that taking care of the most poor and vulnerable populations is the right thing to do," says Epstein.
Dieu-Thi Nguyen, MD, a 2007 Dartmouth College graduate and a 2011 Geisel graduate, was a Payson Scholarship recipient while in medical school. She says the financial support not only opened the door for her to attend medical school at Dartmouth, but also reinforced her desire to use her medical training to promote social justice, a passion instilled in her as a child in Vietnam.
"I dreamt of being a doctor at the age of 7 while still living in Vietnam," says Dr. Nguyen, a graduate of Manchester (NH) High School. "I wanted to alleviate the sufferings of the sick and the poor people I saw on the streets. At a young age, I saw the medical profession as a powerful medium to promote social justice.
"With the Payson scholarship, I was able to attend Dartmouth and participate in programs such as the Dartmouth International Health Group Fellowship program. I was able to travel back to Vietnam at the end of my first year of medical school and volunteer at an orphanage called Maison Chance," says Dr. Nguyen. "The generosity of Dr. Payson and his wife and other financial donors has inspired me to give back to the community. I am in the final year of my internal medicine residency at UVA, and I volunteer at the Charlottesville Free Clinic and am one of its medical directors. Another dream of mine is to build a clinic in Vietnam in the future."
The high cost of a medical education and accompanying debt can affect the choice of specialty, practice and location the graduate will pursue. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the median indebtedness nationally for the graduating Class of 2013 was $190,000 for private medical schools and $168,000 for public schools.
Attending medical school would be impossible for me without scholarship support, as I am from a humble background and am raising two children as I go through school. I am immensely grateful to scholarship donors like the Paysons for the honor of my medical education.
—Jody Epstein, Geisel medical student
Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine graduates' average debt is $144,000, below the national average "but still daunting," says Gordon Koff, assistant dean for admissions and student affairs at Geisel. Fifty-four percent of Geisel students receive partial need-based scholarships, and 84 percent rely on loans to fund their education.
"While all gifts to the medical school are deeply valued and help us improve lives, it is especially rewarding when our alumni like Norm Payson 'pay back and pay forward' to make the school they love even stronger," says Chip Souba, MD, dean of the Geisel School of Medicine. "That support means a great deal to our students, not just financially but emotionally."
The right leaders for this "tumultuous time in healthcare"
With his 30-plus years serving as CEO and leader of multiple healthcare organizations, including two S&P 500 publicly traded companies, Payson has been part of much change in healthcare. In his work with academic medical centers and hospitals around the country, he sees the complex challenges facing healthcare. But he's optimistic that the medical school's leaders and its expertise in healthcare delivery science can help provide a path forward and develop the type of physicians needed ahead.
"I have a lot of faith in the leadership of the med school and that gives me a lot of confidence in what we at Dartmouth do, because it is such a tumultuous time for healthcare, for medicine, for healthcare economics, healthcare financing, public policy and all these stressors on the system," says Dr. Payson. "I feel that we've got the right leaders and Dartmouth is a tremendous site for innovation, especially on healthcare delivery science but also in inculcating a culture of doing the right thing...providing care for underserved areas, the work we've done in Africa and elsewhere, and building on the volunteerism that exists among the students. Geisel is an altruistic environment that I think is very, very good and very important for these budding doctors.
"I'm fortunate in my experience that I see other academic medical centers and I'm in hospitals all the time talking to doctors. With that broader perspective, I just feel good about Dartmouth, the medical school, and the innovation that comes out of our healthcare delivery science expertise," he says.
Dr. Payson is an expert on both the payor and provider sides of healthcare delivery, having managed large practices and companies from both vantage points. He has worked closely with private equity firms and others in the development and transformation of several healthcare companies, and has also been CEO of a 120-physician multi-specialty group practice, a practicing physician, and active in healthcare philanthropy and graduate education.
Dr. Payson served as Chairman and CEO of Apria Healthcare Group since Blackstone's purchase of the company on October 28, 2008 until November 30, 2012. Apria is a national home healthcare provider with 14,000 employees and $2.3 billion in annual revenue. He oversaw Apria's restructuring and development of multiple commercial payor arrangements and government programs.
After receiving his MD degree in 1973, Dr. Payson was a primary care physician in the United States Public Health Service on a Native American reservation and in a physician multi-specialty group practice for several years. At the group practice, in addition to caring for patients, he assumed progressively greater leadership roles in quality assurance, utilization management and then medical director.
During a dinner in Hanover this fall with the scholarship recipients, he shared his professional journey over the past four decades. His work to improve Native American health resonated with Epstein.
"Especially after hearing his stories about providing primary care on the Native American reservation, receiving the Payson Scholarship feels like an imperative to do good work as a student and ultimately as a physician," says Epstein. "It inspires me to appreciate this time of my training, when I have access to so many experts and fine teachers and I am free to focus solely on my education. It also inspires me to make good use of the knowledge I've gained at Dartmouth when I ultimately go out into practice. I don't want to let Dr. Payson down!"
"It's hard to find a better purpose"
"Honestly, I don't know how I could be at medical school if not for the support of Dr. Payson and his wife," says Geisel third-year student and Holderness, New Hampshire native Rachel Martin. "During my senior year of college, I was working three work-study jobs in order to help offset my tuition, but I still left college with loans. The day I realized that New Hampshire's only medical school was private was a devastating one, because I would suddenly be moving into a whole new level of loan debt. No longer was I talking in thousands, or even tens of thousands of debt. There was absolutely no way.
The generosity of Dr. Payson and his wife and other financial donors has inspired me to give back to the community. I am in the final year of my internal medicine residency at UVA, and I volunteer at the Charlottesville Free Clinic and am one of its medical directors. Another dream of mine is to build a clinic in Vietnam in the future.
—Dr. Dieu-Thi Nguyen (D'07, Med'11)
"While I can never be completely comfortable with the cost of my education, Dr. Payson's scholarship has taken away some of the fear that has lain heavy in my stomach since the day I saw my first college tuition bill," Martin says. "I plan to choose my specialty based on the area in which I can make the biggest difference for my patients, not where I can pay back my loans the fastest."
Dr. Payson says that helping lighten the financial load weighing on aspiring physicians like Epstein, Nguyen and Martin and seeing their promise and continued success energizes him and affirms his love for medicine and Dartmouth.
"I always feel very good about being able to contribute to the medical school. It's hard to find a better purpose.
"Dartmouth helped me become a doctor, which I'm always grateful for. I look at my education here with a lot of fondness. It was a rigorous program and I had to study hard, but there is a lot of joy and pleasure in learning," says Dr. Payson. "To this day, I take a lot of pride in being a physician. It's a very worthy profession, even if I don't practice day to day. I think it's still part of who I am.
"And Dartmouth is a particularly elegant way of becoming a doctor. I mean, it's just a wonderful environment to be in."
The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, founded in 1797, strives to improve the lives of the communities it serves through excellence in learning, discovery, and healing. The nation's fourth-oldest medical school, the Geisel School of Medicine has been home to many firsts in medical education, research and practice, including the discovery of the mechanism for how light resets biological clocks, creating the first multispecialty intensive care unit, the first comprehensive examination of U.S. health care variations (The Dartmouth Atlas), and helping establish the first Center for Health Care Delivery Science, which launched in 2010. As one of America's leading medical schools, Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine is committed to training new generations of diverse health care leaders who will help solve our most vexing challenges in health care.
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