KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A new full-tuition scholarship is being designed to put Kalamazoo Public Schools graduates through the Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine.

School leaders announced the creation of the WMed Promise Thursday. It will be awarded to one new student each year and fully cover that student’s tuition until they get their degree.

“Our tuition and fees right now are $67,000 (annually). That’s a huge burden to bear,” WMed Dean Dr. Paula Termuhlen said. “It costs more than $250,000 to complete your medical degree right now.”

The WMed Promise is announced at a donor appreciation luncheon on Nov. 10, 2020.
The WMed Promise is announced at a donor appreciation luncheon on Nov. 10, 2020.

The WMed Promise is modeled after but not a part of the Kalamazoo Promise scholarship that covers KPS graduates’ entire tuition at Michigan colleges. The WMed Promise would be for KPS graduates who are recipients of the Kalamazoo Promise scholarship. There are currently two such students enrolled in the medical school.

“Our students often come to us after having incurred other educational debt, which is why if we’re able to make the opportunity available to partner with the Kalamazoo Promise as an addition to that now we’re really being able to open the door for students who don’t have means for that kind of cost of education,” Termuhlen said. “I don’t know of any other program in the country that’s able to truly partner with their public school system that will carry them all the way through to medical school.”

Termuhlen said the promise will help retain local talent.

“As we underwent the strategic planning process at WMed to put a stake in the ground around health equity for Southwest Michigan, we realized that that also means encouraging more young people from this area to consider careers in health care in particularly in medicine,” she said at a donor appreciation luncheon as the new scholarship was announced.

KPS Superintendent Rita Raichoudhuri said students will be excited to hear about the new scholarship.

“It is very unique,” Raichoudhuri said. “Of course, medical schools have scholarships but I researched a ton and I haven’t found one where there is a scholarship earmarked specifically for a graduate of the local public school district.”

She said KPS is excited to see the impact the program will have.

“Such a proud moment. Such a humbling moment for the KPS community and the Kalamazoo community,” Raichoudhuri said. “We are just at a loss for words and (are) very grateful.” 

Current medical students say they’re proud to be part of a school working to help reduce the financial burden of becoming a doctor.

“It’s honestly an incredible gift. It is really rare so it’s really, really special that the community is coming together to support this for our students,” medical student Marah Ranger said.

Room and board would not be covered by the scholarship.

The hope is to roll it out in the next few years. The fundraising initiative for it is just getting started, so it’s not yet open to applicants.

The medical school is accepting donations online with the goal of endowing the scholarship program forever. Organizers have not released the total amount they are seeking to collect.

The fundraising campaign is chaired by Dr. Robert Gorman III, a WMed faculty member, local orthopedic surgeon and himself a graduate of KPS.

—News 8’s Kyle Mitchell contributed to this report.