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Supporting service

Robert Hart created an endowed scholarship to support medical students committed to serving others. The scholarship gives preference to students who have served in the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps.(Photo: Tim Rummelhoff)

Endowment recognizes altruism in future physicians

Robert Hart appreciates the value of skilled physicians who genuinely care about their patients. He has been that patient a few times in his life, and he says the care provided at clinics associated with the University of Minnesota is far and away the best he has received. His wife’s son had a similar experience with prompt, outstanding treatment at the University when time really counted.

“I’m extremely pleased with the care I have been given,” says Hart, an entrepreneur. “I thought I should do something to show my gratitude.”

As he thought about ways to do that, the prospect of supporting students who are dedicated to serving others excited him the most. So in December he pledged $125,000 over five years and another $25,000 each year for the rest of his life to establish the Robert Leonard Hart Endowment for Public Service in Medicine. The scholarship gives preference to students who have served in the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps before entering medical school. He has put another $2 million aside in his estate plans to support this fund as well.

The endowed fund also qualified for the President’s Scholarship Match, a program created in 2003 by University President Robert Bruininks, Ph.D., which essentially doubles the impact of scholarship gifts.

Hart hopes the money this endowment provides, which nearly covers one student’s full tuition, will allow public service-minded young people with an interest in medicine to pursue a medical career — without having to worry about how they’re going to repay their loans.

Last year’s University of Minnesota Medical School graduates, for example, carried an average debt of $180,000.

Hart worries that the high cost of medical school encourages students to be more concerned with income than service. “In today’s world, the large debt burden that medical graduates carry makes it difficult — if not impossible — to be of service to the poor, underprivileged, and underserved,” he says.

First-year medical student Tricia Hadley, who spent a year in AmeriCorps working as a doula and medical interpreter, is the first to receive a scholarship through the Robert Leonard Hart Endowment for Public Service in Medicine. (Photo: Scott Streble)

Finding the right career

Medical student Tricia Hadley, the first recipient of the scholarship provided through the Hart endowment, agrees that medical students may be enticed by higher-paying specialties over lower-paying primary-care careers in family medicine or pediatrics. But she has a different view.

People are excited by different things, she says. “I’m excited by spending my time with people in need.”

Hadley, a native of Iowa City, started out at Grinnell College as a pre-med major but switched to anthropology after taking a class in medical anthropology and the social aspects of medicine. After graduation, Hadley worked with traditional midwives in Mexico for a year while looking at the impact of government policies. But she says she felt compelled to be a more active participant in health.

So Hadley joined AmeriCorps, working for a year as a doula and medical interpreter at a Brooklyn, New York, hospital where she primarily served an underprivileged Hispanic community. There she saw many women through their entire pregnancies — from prenatal education to labor and delivery and breastfeeding.

“That was the first time I thought, ‘OK, this is a lifestyle I want,’” she says. “Service isn’t something you do to put on your résumé. It’s a lifestyle.”

The next year Hadley took a job at a St. Louis hospital as a doula for women at high risk for pregnancy-related complications.

While considering whether to pursue medicine or nursing, she received a Fulbright scholarship to work in Bogotá, Colombia, where she taught homeless children about sexual and reproductive health and conducted research on candidate vaccines for tuberculosis and malaria.

And somewhere along the way — she’s not exactly sure where — Hadley decided to attend medical school. “It wasn’t a moment,” she says. “I came to the realization that there was a lot I wanted to do. This kind of fulfilled everything — my career goals and my personal goals.”

A choice affirmed

As an Iowa resident, Hadley says her medical training would have been cheaper at a school in her home state. But the University of Minnesota had something other schools didn’t.

“I was drawn to this school because of its commitment to eliminating health disparities and supporting immigrant populations,” says Hadley, who intends to work with these groups in her medical career.

She chose the University’s Medical School before she knew her tuition would be almost fully supported by the Hart scholarship.

“Getting this scholarship was the hugest affirmation that I chose the right place,” Hadley says. “I’ll never forget why I went into medicine.”

Hart and Hadley met for lunch in September, and Hart says Hadley is exactly the kind of student he had hoped to support through his scholarship endowment.

“She is an extraordinary example of service and dedication to a cause,” says Hart. “Such altruism and dedication demand the financial support of those who value the future of a giving and a more egalitarian society.”

To learn more about supporting medical student scholarships, visit or contact Teri McIntyre at 612-625-5976 or

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