For sale: Medical school names, legacies

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    After 10 years of delay and deliberation, Pennsylvania lawmakers have finally revamped the requirements for high school graduation. Gov. Tom Wolf intends to sign the measure. (Shutterstock)

    After 10 years of delay and deliberation, Pennsylvania lawmakers have finally revamped the requirements for high school graduation. Gov. Tom Wolf intends to sign the measure. (Shutterstock)

    Dr. Danielle Ofri, of Bellevue Hospital and NYU, has reservations about selling a medical school’s name to someone with deep pockets if it means they get the institutions legacy as part of the deal.

    Sometimes when a person donates a substantial amount of money to a medical school, their name becomes the school’s new identity. Is that fair?

    Dr. Danielle Ofri, an internist at Bellevue Hospital in New York, thinks not. Ofri is the author of The New York Times article “Welcome to (Your Name Here) Medical School,” and she told Pulse host Maiken Scott that the name change destroys the school’s legacy.

    “To change the name would seem unfair to the institution,” Ofri said. “The institution has earned that legacy. The donor hasn’t earned it in the same way.”

    At smaller colleges of medicine it costs about $8 million to get a name change. Big-ticket schools, such as Ivy Leagues, can have a price tag as big as $200 million. Changing the names of medical schools in particular is a bit more problematic than tainting the legacy of other kinds of institutions, according to Ofri.

    “Medical schools are a bit in the public sphere in a way that other kinds of schools aren’t. We often treat many underserved patients and we’re training the next generation of doctors,” Ofri said.

    Students who attend these medical schools are also affected.

    “They respected the donor’s choice to support their institution, but it felt awkward to have the name [change] on the diploma,” Ofri said.

    Despite the lost legacies and unpopular diploma revisions, philanthropy like this can be a positive thing.

    “Large donations can potentially transform schools,” Ofri admits. “They can change them from a small college to a large research institution. They can open up new avenues of care.”

    And that’s a good thing, because the trend of name changing doesn’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon. Twenty-four of the country’s 141 medical schools go by a donor’s name rather than just the university’s name, and the pace seems to be quickening. Ofri thinks it would be better if the donor chose to name the school after someone who has impacted the health industry instead of themselves.

    “A donor could choose an esteemed physician, a patient, someone who made a real difference,” Ofri said.

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