The stethoscope is a potent symbol to medical school students. The device represents the profession they aspire to, but more than that, the stethoscope remains the most reliable means to diagnose issues with the heart. Medical students around the world wear their stethoscopes proudly around their necks; it’s as much a status symbol as it is a diagnostic tool. The Wisconsin Alumni Association aims to aid students in their quest to join the ranks of the world’s doctors.
The organization is reaching out to their more than 10,000 alumni, asking them to donate either $100 or $500 to a pilot program that connects incoming medical students with a high-quality stethoscope. To date, the program has gifted brand new stethoscopes to over 150 students.
This type of mentorship is extremely important to students—medical students particularly. The rigors of medical school are made that much easier for students knowing that they have an older, successful doctor in their corner. What’s more, the stethoscope will last for years, providing students with a reliable backup throughout much of their careers.
Karen Peterson, Wisconsin Medical Alumni executive director, had this to say: “When possible, we partner students who receive the stethoscopes with alumni who share common interests, to aid in the students’ career exploration.” She went on, “Ideally, each student and alumnus or alumnae pair will be able to meet independently through WMAA events.”
According to Peterson, this year’s stethoscopes came from a small group of alumni, but the director hopes to reach more donors in years to come. As a short-term goal, the organization hopes to give out at least 175 stethoscopes per year. The group is targeting doctors who graduated within the last 10 years or so. A $150 donation is within the budget of these professionals, and Peterson hopes that sentimental ties to the school will prompt larger donations.
There are two donation levels: $150 and $500. At the $150 level, the alumni sponsor provides one stethoscope, and they ensure their protégé access to the school’s events for the year, including homecoming. At the $500 level, each alumni provides the stethoscope, and they provide their student access to the school’s special events for four years. At this level, the donor receives priority for homecoming and football tickets.
Not Just a Symbolic Gift
There is real value in WMAA’s pilot program. Many doctors use the same stethoscope for years, if not decades. This gift can prevent newly minted doctors from purchasing a stethoscope while they’re trying to pay off student loans. Not surprisingly, medical students face stiff tuition fees.
Additionally, some medical students are the first in their families to seek higher education, and although scholarships go far, they don’t cover all costs. According to the Association of Medical Colleges, around 80% of medical school graduates in 2013 graduated with debt. Of those, 79% held at least $100,000 in debt upon graduation. Most of these doctors will repay that debt within 17 years, making $1,400 to $2,300 monthly payments along the way. A free stethoscope represents around $200 in saved interest. Kudos to the Wisconsin Alumni Association for making it easier for doctors to focus on providing high-quality medical care to their patients.