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Supporting the future of medicine

Bonnie and Lee M. Espeland, M.D.

Couple funds scholarship with current use and estate gifts

In the four decades since he graduated from the University of Minnesota Medical School, Lee M. Espeland, M.D., Class of 1967, has observed dramatic changes that have made it increasingly difficult for students to pursue a worldclass medical education.

“Medical school is different now,” says Espeland. “When I went through my training, the cost of a medical education was significantly less than it is now. It’s not uncommon now for a medical student to leave school with a debt of $150,000 or more.”

Toward the end of Espeland’s 40-year career in anesthesiology and chronic pain, he and his wife, Bonnie, chose to help those following in his footsteps.

“After our children had received their postgraduate education, it became obvious that it was time to give something back to the institution that gave me the opportunity and the tools to improve other people’s lives,” Lee Espeland says.

So, in 2002, the couple created the Lee and Bonnie Espeland Scholarship. Five years later, they chose to bolster their commitment by making a charitable bequest from their IRA to the Minnesota Medical Foundation at the University of Minnesota.

“We want to see the medical profession grow,” Lee Espeland says. “We want to see the brightest and best pursue careers in medicine and not be prevented from meeting their goals because of what it would have cost.”

Nichole Boettcher, a third-year medical student from Mankato, Minn., who plans to specialize in otolaryngology, is one of the beneficiaries.

Her interest in medical school took root in her childhood. “My younger sister has really bad asthma. I spent a lot of time when I was younger visiting her in the hospital,” she says. “Growing up, I wanted to be like the doctors I saw taking care of her.”

Thanks to the Espelands, Boettcher’s goal is in sight.

The Espeland scholarship, Boettcher says, relieves some of the financial burden of medical school and gives her time to participate in the student council and serve as a representative to the University’s Graduate and Professional Student Assembly.

“It’s allowed me to have a more well-rounded medical education,” Boettcher says. “I have less worry about the money. I’m incredibly grateful. It makes me want to be a better doctor and to someday give back to doctors [in training] like me.”

Lee Espeland hopes others will share Boettcher’s attitude as he advocates for greater support of medical students among his colleagues.

“The world’s need for accessible health care will continue to grow, and the challenge of enabling dedicated medical students to obtain their educational goals is of the utmost importance,” he says. “Those of us with an opportunity to assist our successors should do so.”

To learn more about opportunities to make a difference through your estate plan or other types of planned gifts, visit

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