Meharry Medical College in Nashville announced its largest-ever financial gift Thursday: $34 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies.
The money intends to increase the number of Black doctors in the country and to reduce their debt burden by boosting scholarships.
Each student will be eligible to apply for up to $100,000 to pay for the cost of medical school. Some funds will also help with financial counseling for students and resources to track the effectiveness of the program.
The news elicited cheers from students attending the announcement, and huge smiles and applause from the dozens who tuned in via video conference call.
At first, fourth-year medical student Christopher Anderson sat in stunned silence after hearing the news. “After that, it was just jubilation and a lot of excitement,” he says.
Meharry president James Hildreth prefaced the announcement saying: “Most days, our studies, our research and eventually our careers are in service to people with enormous health challenges that go unnoticed by the world.”
But today, Hildreth said, is not one of those days.
Hildreth called the gift “transformative” and told students that it represents “long overdue” mainstream recognition for the historically Black medical school.
“Today is the dawn of a new day for the future of minority health and for you who are rising to take that challenge,” said Hildreth.
Meharry is one of four historically Black medical schools to receive a total of $100 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies as part of its Greenwood Initiative, which seeks to address “systemic underinvestment in Black communities” and to accelerate wealth generation for Black Americans.
And that’s important for students like Anderson. He and his wife recently had a baby, and he says reducing his student loans will help him get out of debt faster and start building wealth for his family. “For my children and my children’s children, they don’t have to worry as much if I can build for them.”
Hildreth acknowledged the contributions of Black doctors that came before them. Hildreth asked students to remember those who couldn’t enter white hospitals, who were passed over for opportunities, who worked selflessly and “never saw a dime from anyone, much less a scholarship,” Hildreth said. “This is all about them as well.”
“In my mind, I am standing on the backs of giants that got me to where I am today,” he said.