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Scholarships: The crucial assist

By Steve Bjerklie

Paul DeKoning ('05) is one of 117 Dartmouth medical students to have benefited from the Thomas A. Lenci 1922 Memorial Scholarship Fund. There is a growing gap between students' need for scholarships and the school's ability to meet that need.

Paul DeKoning vividly remembers his feelings upon starting his studies at Dartmouth Medical School (now the Geisel School of Medicine) in 2000: excitement and anticipation mixed with worries about how he would manage financially. "Basically, I couldn't pay for anything for med school," he says. "Scholarships were the crucial assist."

Every year, dozens of incoming medical students at Geisel face those same feelings, with 84% of Geisel students relying on loans to fund their education and 54% receiving partial need-based scholarships from the school. After four years, those loans add up to, on average, $140,000 in debt—well below the national average for medical schools but still daunting.

Gordon "Dino" Koff, Director of Financial Aid at the Geisel School, says that such large debts are "worrisome because they limit students' choices and may prevent them from pursuing primary care or other lower-paid but greatly needed specialties." Furthermore, Koff notes, "there's a growing gap between student need and our capacity to meet it. That's why the school is so appreciative of every scholarship gift, whether current use or endowment."

Now eight years out of medical school, DeKoning is as grateful as ever for the scholarship support he received. An emergency room physician at DHMC, he was recently appointed assistant residency program director for the ER after serving as clerkship director for several years. "One of the things that brought me back to Dartmouth-Hitchcock was the opportunity to be involved with training others," he comments. "Medicine is a service profession, and giving back is one of the things that feeds me."

With an approach to medicine, and to life, like that, DeKoning was exactly the kind of student that the Thomas A. Lenci 1922 Memorial Scholarship Fund at Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine was intended to support—an individual in financial need who is equally dedicated to the profession of medicine and to the welfare of his or her fellow people. A pastor's son who grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan, DeKoning followed a three-generation family tradition and attended Michigan State University, where he earned both a BS in human physiology and an MS in epidemiology. While still an undergraduate, he spent a summer in Africa, on a medical mission to Chad to get a first-hand view of international medicine. "I witnessed the first vaccination of a baby in a bush village," he recalls. "This is as practical as health care gets."

The Lenci Legacy
Thomas Lenci, a 1922 graduate of Dartmouth College, never realized his own dream of going to medical school. Instead, after majoring in chemistry at Dartmouth he was steered into the family business, Eagle Printing Ink Company, in New York City. Though successful in the ink business, he always regretted not going into medicine and was pleased when his eldest son, Dexter, did so.

The Power of Endowment Giving

Year the Thomas A. Lenci 1922 Memorial Scholarship Fund was established

Total gifts to the fund, at inception and since then

Market value of the fund as of 3/31/13

2012 distributions from the fund for scholarship support

Beginning in 1950, Lenci served on the board of the Lillia Babbitt Hyde Foundation, established in 1924 by Mrs. Hyde, an heir to the Babbitt soap fortune. Twenty-five years later, upon Lenci's retirement from the board (he died shortly thereafter), his fellow members voted to fund a scholarship endowment in his name. He directed the fund to help support medical students at Dartmouth—the kind of student he wished he had been so many years before. Geisel students have been benefitting ever since.

Gordon Lenci (D'56), Thomas Lenci's youngest son, remembers, "There was a kindness about my father, a genuine concern for the underdog. He would really delight in the scholarship, because it's all about helping students." Indeed, when he was alive, Thomas Lenci paid for the education of his groundskeeper's son through college, doing so quietly and without fanfare, as was his style.

Gordon Lenci continues his father's legacy. As a member of the board of the Charles E. and Joy C. Pettinos Foundation, he directs funds to the Lenci Scholarship Fund. He has also included the fund in his estate plan.

As a practicing physician, Paul DeKoning embodies the fulfillment of Thomas Lenci's legacy. "I love taking care of patients in their time of need," he says. "I've delivered babies, I've treated stroke patients, I've treated stubbed toes—and everything in between. What I do is nonstop from the minute I walk in the door until I go home, and sometimes longer than that. It's a daily challenge to keep your priorities balanced, to focus on what's most important, but if I don't, then I won't be as good a doctor as I need to be. My faith and family are what keep me strong as a human being, and as a doctor."

Snapshots in Giving

The generosity of alumni and friends of the Geisel School of Medicine fuels excellence in learning, discovery, and healing. Gifts such as these are helping the school enrich medical education and foster innovation, while addressing the most challenging issues in health care.

In memory of her son, Joseph, Lila May Walkden Flounders of Lantana, Fla., established a charitable gift annuity to benefit the C. Everett Koop Institute. The institute promotes health and well-being, with a particular focus on integrating humanities and medicine. Flounders' husband and son were graduates of Dartmouth College, as was Koop, who served as U.S. Surgeon General from 1981 to 1989.

Grateful for the education he received at the medical school, Joseph Lynch ('71), an accomplished pulmonologist at UCLA, has established an endowed lectureship in the Department of Medicine. The fund supports annual lectures on topics in pulmonary and critical-care medicine, bringing national experts in the field to Geisel and Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

A generous bequest from the late Dorothy Goodstein will support research in the fields of neurology and neuropsychology at the Geisel School of Medicine. A long-time resident of Manchester, N.H., Goodstein faced neuropsychological challenges in her own lifetime and was inspired to help others. Her gift, which established an endowed fund in her name, will advance this area of medicine for years to come.

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