To honor their 50th medical school anniversary, members of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH) Class of 1967 created a Great People Scholarship Fund aimed at easing the debt burden for future physicians.
In early 2017, Leon Helmbrecht, MD ’67, John Jaeger, MD ’67, Dennis Maki, MD ’67, Pierce Meier, MD ’67, and Mary Ellen Peters, MD ’67, wrote the following to their classmates:
“Almost two years ago, we—along with our great friend, Eric Wedell, MD—wrote to you about the creation of our Class of 1967 Great People Scholarship Fund, encouraging your participation. ... We were sad when Eric passed away last October, yet remain very inspired by the example he set as a physician who lived an incredible life of service.
“Moved by Eric’s model of ‘giving back’... together let’s give at least another $55,000, and reach $250,000 by year’s end.” At the class’ reunion in spring 2017, Patrick McBride, MD ’80, MPH, past president of the Wisconsin Medical Alumni Association, said, “I want to convey an enormous thanks to the Great Class of 1967 for what you have accomplished with your Great People Scholarship Fund. After just two years, 49 percent of you have contributed, and the fund balance sits at $240,000— just $10,000 away from reaching your year-end goal of $250,000.”
The first two students to receive a Class of 1967 Scholarship, Ashok Bhattarai and Kathryn Eszes, are greatly benefiting from the group’s generosity. “Five years ago, my friend Mary Ellen Peters contacted me about coming to our 45th reunion. She presented the idea for the Class of 1967 Campaign and has inspired others to contribute. I liked the idea, and I felt it was time for me to start giving back,” says Helmbrecht, who practiced adult and pediatric urology in Pomona, California, until he retired from patient care in 2008. “I was lucky to have had a family that could cover my educational expenses— which were much lower then than they are for current students,” he reflects. Peters shares deep gratitude for those who donated to the fund. Reflecting on her long career in diagnostic radiology at UW Health and the SMPH, Peters says it felt like a good time to help the next generation of physicians succeed.
Another classmate and UW Health colleague—Maki—worked with Peters and the UW Foundation to establish the fund. An infectious disease researcher and physician, Maki joined the SMPH faculty in 1974. He says the Class of ’67 has been cohesive since Day 1. “My classmates are good human beings and leaders in their communities. It is a privilege to be part of this class,” he says. Maki recalls his medical school days, when he could make enough money at student jobs to pay for his education, something that’s out of reach these days. “It’s fulfilling to give back to students at the great university that provided me with many wonderful opportunities,” he says.