NEOMED Launches $40M Fundraising Campaign

ROOTSTOWN, Ohio – Elizabeth Looney’s medical career began at a support group in Puerto Rico.

Years ago, before Looney set foot on the campus of Northeast Ohio Medical University or became a member of its first class of urban primary-care students, she worked as an intern at a medical center in the island territory. There she met Karen, who had been diagnosed with HIV and a congenital hearing loss.

Karen’s children lived with her parents, who had taken them out of fear for their safety. Any visits she was afforded were brief.

“It is because of patients like Karen and the issues she faced that I decided to pursue medicine,” Looney said. “From Karen I learned disease is not just a biological venture and neither is medicine. Disease springs from and affects the social, biological, political and personal realms of life. And our cures need to be targeted appropriately.”

Looney is set to graduate at the end of the upcoming spring semester and a member of first class of urban primary-care students at NEOMED. There are unique challenges in providing health care in low-income areas, whether rural or urban. Among them, says the medical university’s president, Jay Gershen, is getting doctors there in the first place.

That’s why, as part of NEOMED’s first public fundraising campaign, a significant portion of the $40 million goal will go toward recruiting students to work in those low-income areas.

“Those dollars will pay for the tuition, fees and living expenses for students in exchange, year for year, of student service in those communities once they’ve finished their education,” Gershen said Friday at the kickoff of the campaign.

During her speech, Looney noted that under normal circumstances, she and her family couldn’t afford to pursue a doctorate. But with scholarships from NEOMED, the state of Ohio and the American Board of Family Medicine, she will be able to reach her goal.

“Medical school is a large financial undertaking. For folks who want to go into primary care, especially in those underserved settings, the offer of financial support [from NEOMED] is attractive,” she said. “It’s work we’re very passionate about. For people from backgrounds without a lot of financial support, it makes it possible to do the work that you want to do.”

The $40 million goal is split into three sections, Gershen explained: $20 million for students – including the scholarships for those who work in low-income areas; $15 million to improve the school’s research facilities; and $5 million to improve community health efforts. The fundraising initiative, called Shine On: The Campaign for Northeast Ohio Medical University, will end in July 2018.

At the end of his speech, before the Rootstown High School marching band marked the beginning a drum roll, Gershen announced that more than $28 million has already been raised.

“We’ve had individual philanthropists who aren’t part of our family – who aren’t alumni – donate. We’ve had corporations donate. We’ve had foundations provide dollars,” he said. “It comes from a lot of sources and hopefully we can add it all up to $40 million.”

Among the donations, he reported, was $1 million from Medical Mutual of Ohio earmarked for pharmacy scholarships, $4 million from FirstEnergy Corp. for campus infrastructure and $5 million from the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation for community mental health projects.

Looney said she is “surprised but not shocked” by the amount donated already.

The fundraising campaign, coupled with the trends of the past five years at the university, spell out a bright future for the school, Gershen said. Since 2010, enrollment has increased to 900 from 600 and the research capacity has doubled. The size of the campus size has doubled over the past two years and a 330-student high school program was established.

“We’re at the right intersection between health care and higher education,” the university president said. “We’re also in a sweet spot for economic development because so much of what we do affects the economy of Ohio.”

Physicians from the school generate about $1 million in economic activity apiece, Gershen noted, and about 1,600 NEOMED graduates work across Ohio today.

Looney said afterward that she’s ready to work immediately after graduation. Once she does, she, too, will to donate to the campaign.

Donations to the campaign can be made at ShineOnNeomed.com or by contacting Daniel Blain at 330 325 6261.

Pictured: The president of NEOMED, Dr. Jay Gershen, announces the $40 million “Shine on NEOMED” fundraising campaign.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.