MEDFORD, Mass. — Tufts University is receiving a $15 million donation from the Jaharis Family Foundation to expand its anatomy lab where medical students dissect cadavers.
The foundation was founded by pharmaceutical executive and former Tufts trustee Michael Jaharis, who died in February at age 87.
Tufts plans to build an expanded anatomy lab with new medical imaging equipment and room for more than 200 students and faculty. The lab is expected to be finished in 2018.
School officials say the lab bolsters their commitment to dissection as a critical part of medical education. Medical students at Tufts and many other schools learn anatomy by dissecting cadavers.
The donation also provides $2 million for scholarships to help low-income and middle-income medical students pursue careers in family medicine.
The gross anatomy laboratory will be relocated, expanded and integrated with state-of-the-art digital imaging thanks the donation the university’s newspaper Tufts Now reported.
The scholarships funded by the gift will go to middle- to low-income students committed to practicing family medicine, easing student indebtedness in a medical specialty with a tremendous shortage of physicians.
Tufts President Anthony P. Monaco told the newspaper that the Jaharis family’s philanthropy aligns with a core value of the university—to act as an engine for social good.
“There’s nothing more noble than an investment in education and the health and well-being of our society,” he said.
“Family physicians trained at Tufts will play a critical role as we confront the obesity epidemic, opioid addiction and other great health challenges of our times and work to resolve them,” he added.
The donation also means students at Tufts, one of top medical schools in the Boston area, which is filled with them, will have an updated gross anatomy lab so they can practice hands-on dissection to go along with advances in diagnostic imaging technologies offering virtual reality in the field.
“Overall, the trend has been for schools to go away from physical dissection, although many have come back to it,” Jeffrey Marchant, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor and Associate Director of the Division of Medical Education at Tufts told the paper.
“In our view, in order to learn the material, students have to go into the lab and physically dissect the parts of the body. Searching for structures is an important part of the learning process.”
The new gross anatomy lab will feature an enlarged space and world-class technology in addition to hands-on physical dissection. Using the Jaharis grant, the new lab will incorporate a range of new features, including a 75-person classroom, an advanced dissection lab and a special anatomy suite as well as a flexible design for more than 200 students and faculty with surgical lighting and computer screens at each dissection table;
The gift from the Jaharis Family Foundation enables Tufts to maximize the use of one of its oldest buildings on campus, the Biomedical Research and Public Health Building, which has been central to the School since the 1950s.
Construction on the new lab will begin in fall 2016 and is scheduled to be completed in summer 2018. The laboratory will run year-round, providing anatomical training for each medical, dental medicine, and physician assistant class.
FAMILY MEDICINE SCHOLARSHIPS
The $2 million from the Jaharis donation will especially benefit family medicine during a time when many medical students are choosing specialties.
The American Academy of Family Physicians projects a shortfall of 21,000 family medicine physicians by 2025, a gap the Jaharis gift hopes to partially fill.
Students facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt are leaning toward specialties so they can off their loans, leaving fewer choosing family medicine.
“It’s our most underserved field,” Dr. Amy Kuhlik, Dean of Student Affairs at the medical school said. “We have a critical need in this area, yet year after year, this is where we see the greatest number go unfulfilled in the match.”
Steven Jaharis, a 1987 graduate of Tufts University School of Medicine, long-time family medicine physician in the Chicago area and a Director of the Jaharis Family Foundation, said: “I recognize that student debt is a pressing issue for medical students today, and I don’t want the size of a student’s loans to discourage future physicians from selecting family medicine as their specialty. The need for primary care physicians in America is growing, and I hope that this scholarship will help students who go into family medicine graduate with less loan debt.”
Based on financial need, Tufts will award a total of $100,000 in scholarships each year prior to graduation to students who match into a family medicine residency program, reducing loan principal and the corresponding interest charges.
This gift is the latest in a long history of transformative contributions the Jaharis Family Foundation Inc. has made to Tufts University School of Medicine.
The foundation previously enabled the near-doubling of research space at the medical school with the construction of a new building called the Jaharis Family Center for Biomedical and Nutrition Sciences; endowed a professorship in family medicine at Tufts; funded a comprehensive renovation of the School’s Sackler Center and creation of the Clinical Skills and Simulation Center; and established the Jaharis Family Scholarship Fund, which provides additional resources for financial aid.
Michael Jaharis was committed to medical education and for many years he held a leadership role at Tufts, serving as a university trustee from 1993 to 2003 and as a Chair of the Board of Advisors to the School of Medicine and the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences.
In 2015, Tufts awarded him an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree in recognition of his lifetime commitment to the public good.
“This gift from the Jaharis Family Foundation will dramatically enhance the gross anatomy course, a cornerstone of medical education, where students get the first glimmer of what type of physician they might become and where they first begin to work in a team,” Dr. Harris Berman, Dean of Tufts University School of Medicine.
He added: “The latest gift ensures that we continue to graduate well-trained physicians whose indebtedness does not dictate the medical specialty they choose. Most notably, the foundation’s philanthropy will have a much broader impact—helping to guarantee a pipeline of physicians who are prepared to provide comprehensive and preventative care to patients who need it the most,” says
The school will be seeking $10 million in matching gifts from alumni, friends and other supporters. “When we make a gift, our family always wants to inspire others to do the same,” said Steven Jaharis.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)