Donor Stories

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Alumna’s planned gift will help her class endow a suite in the School of Medicine’s new Medical Student Residence in honor of their 50th reunion

What Dr. Roberta Apfel remembers most from her time at the Boston University School of Medicine are the supportive, close relationships. Everyone from the dean to the janitor was invested in the lives of students. “It was a comfortable and supportive place that was very focused on patients and the craft of medicine,” says Dr. Apfel, “and that was very important to me.”

To be sure, a supportive environment didn’t mean an easy one: “We worked so hard as medical students that we finally staged a strike to get a 40-hour weekend, because we were working straight through from Friday morning to Sunday night,” recalls Dr. Apfel. “I spent the whole winter of my fourth year in the tunnels underneath Boston City Hospital. I hardly saw daylight.”

Those vivid memories and fond feelings for her days in medical school have not dimmed. In fact, they’ve become even sharper over the past decades as Dr. Apfel volunteered, donated, and rekindled relationships with her classmates.  Since her 15th reunion, she has been fundraising for BUSM through annual phonathons. “I appreciate the chance to meet current students, stay in touch with my classmates and watch this cohort of peers move through time, and help BU raise money for the School.”

For her 25th class reunion, when she became class president, Dr. Apfel built the reunion program around the subject of women in medicine—a particularly fitting theme for BUSM, as the School originated from one of the country’s first medical schools for women, the New England Female Medical College. “BU tends to be a pioneer,” she says, “even though it doesn’t get enough credit for that.” Dr. Apfel herself could be considered a pioneer: she was the first woman to graduate Brandeis University who went on to medical school.

She and her husband Dr. Bennett Simon had been giving to BUSM steadily over the years, but as her 50th reunion began coming into view, they thought more seriously about a planned gift. “We retired in 2008, timing things exquisitely so that our savings completely plummeted,” says Dr. Apfel, with a chuckle. “A charitable gift annuity seemed like a win-win situation. We could give a gift and still receive some additional income.”

At the same time, the 50th reunion planning committee began discussing the mark they would leave on their alma mater. They decided that their class gift would endow a suite in the new Medical Student Residence (which opened in Fall 2012).

“I think this new dormitory is a big, big step for BUSM, something that I and a lot of my classmates see the need for,” explains Dr. Apfel. It’s also to the new housing for medical students that the funds from their charitable gift annuity will go. “It will provide housing that’s safe, reasonably affordable, and adds to group cohesiveness. These values are emblematic of our positive memories of medical school,” she says. “And that’s something worth supporting.”


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A BUSM alumnus and infectious disease specialist sets up scholarship funding

Burton Golub (MED’65) knew from an early age that he wanted both to help people and to work with his hands; his top career choices were doctor and concert pianist. “But I’m not a good enough piano player,” he says, and he found himself drawn to the work of his best friend’s father, Dr. Lane.

Golub often visited Dr. Lane at his office, to learn the trade. “I have a vivid recollection of him handing me a pair of sterile gloves to put on,” he says. “And, of course, I contaminated them immediately.” Dr. Lane’s firm-but-kind encouragement affected Golub, and set the tone for his future education at MIT and the Boston University School of Medicine.

While at BUSM, he recalls enjoying anatomy and hating microbiology: “Now my specialty is infections, and microbiology, of course, is key to what I do.” Early exposure to the profession guided Golub through his years in medicine, from those courses through his private practice and teaching work in Colorado. His decision to forego the piano turned out to be the right one as Golub proved an adept and passionate doctor. “For as long as I can remember,” he says, “I thought that was one of the best things a person could do.”

Dr. Golub hopes to help future medical students join him in his noble profession both by teaching and by supporting financial aid at BUSM. “I was grateful for the kind of generosity and education that I received, and I had the financial resources to help,” he explains. After giving generously to the School of Medicine for many years, Golub recently set up a charitable gift annuity and targeted his funds to scholarships. “Why not do something good with your money,” he says, “and help other people who will benefit from it?” His piano may need a little work, but sentiments like that are music to our ears.





BU School of Medicine faculty member supports the next generation of scientists—and honors a dear friend.

For Susan Leeman, growing up the daughter of Russian immigrants in the 1940s meant that after college, she would marry and start a family. Instead, she saw a different future for herself—which eventually led her to become a professor in the Department of Pharmacology at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM).

With the aid of a fellowship funded by the government, Leeman went to graduate school and earned her PhD at a time when that path was not always encouraged for women. She went on to become a pioneer in the basic sciences: She and her students isolated for the first time two important neuropeptides in the body, known as substance P and neurotensin, that serve as neurotransmitters and neuromodulators and participate in immune cell function.

As government funds for research started to become less readily available, Leeman was determined to help those who wanted to follow in her footsteps—and honor a former colleague and friend in the process. That’s why she used the charitable IRA rollover distribution to establish a basic science research fund at BUSM.

“I would not have gone into research if I hadn’t had support myself,” says Leeman, a strong believer in paying back what you’ve been given.

The fund is named in honor of Dr. Karen Reed, a BUSM professor who died of breast cancer in 2010. “She was a fun woman to think with,” says Leeman. The Karen Reed Research Fund will support research on inflammatory-associated cancers.

“When I found out I’d be able to start this fund as a tribute to Karen who meant so much to me, I was just really happy.”

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In appreciation of her daughters’ education, a mother opens doors for other students

In 2009, Alan M. and Sherry M. Leventhal made an extraordinarily generous pledge of $10 million to Boston University, a gift intended in part to motivate substantial parallel gifts for student financial aid and professorships.

Their donation recognizes the exemplary training that the Leventhals’ two daughters received from the School of Medicine, as well as the often overwhelming debt that many of today’s students face upon graduation from medical school. As Sherry Leventhal, MED campaign chair and a member of the MED Dean’s Advisory Board, explains, “I became involved with the School of Medicine when my two daughters were students there. Sarah, who was interested in ob-gyn, and Emily, who wanted to specialize in dermatology, each had an extraordinary experience at BUSM. After they became residents in their respective fields, they both reported that the School had prepared them extremely well for their post-grad specialties.

“Both of my daughters feel that their clinical training at Boston Medical Center, with its diverse patient population, was an invaluable part of their medical education. In contrast to many other medical schools, BUSM students are given a great deal of responsibility, almost from the first day of their clinical program. Relating to patients in a personalized manner and communication skills are emphasized at BUSM, helping to develop the students into the compassionate physicians that we need more of in this day and age.

“I have learned so much more about the medical school during my time on the Dean’s Advisory Board. I am particularly impressed by the diversity of the student population and desire of the students to help the underserved everywhere in the world. I am also aware of the challenges that the School faces, the most pressing of which is the overwhelming debt loads carried by the students when they graduate. We need to find ways to reduce the financial pressure on BUSM graduates, and I am hopeful that we can make real progress in that direction.”

Sherry Leventhal previously practiced law with the firm of Lemle & Kelleher LLP in New Orleans. She earned a bachelor of arts in English at Northwestern University in 1974, and is a 1977 graduate of the Tulane School of Law. She is a trustee of Tulane University and the Neighborhood House Charter School (Dorchester, Mass.).




The widow of a BU School of Medicine alumnus pays tribute to his career and passion for teaching through student scholarship

Joy and Michael Rohman met at New York University in July 1946, just days after Michael was released from the Army. “In fact,” remembers Joy, “when I met him he was dressed in half combat clothes and civilian clothes—he hadn’t had time to go shopping.”

That September, Michael applied to medical school and got into his top choice: Boston University School of Medicine. They were married in his second year and moved to a tiny, one-room apartment on Queensbury Street. “Michael picked it out,” says Joy. “The rent, I recall, was 49 dollars a month. We made do, beautifully. I didn’t think so at the time, but looking back now, we probably gained some good values about the important things in life, in what really matters.”

Michael spent many late nights studying, writing papers, and preparing lessons in that apartment. Joy, with training as a medical assistant, worked for a gynecologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. Curious about Michael’s studies, she would read his texts and always ask questions. “He was very generous about teaching me,” she says.

After graduation from BUSM in 1950—and an additional eight years of residencies—Michael began a long and distinguished career as a cardiothoracic and trauma surgeon. Joy, a photographer, would sometimes document his more challenging procedures in the O.R. In 2002, while still teaching and active in the hospital, Michael died suddenly. “Since then,” says Joy, “I’ve wanted to establish a program that would carry on his work—in some meaningful way.”

To honor the memory of a man who loved his profession and teaching, Joy decided to create a scholarship fund at the BU School of Medicine in Michael’s name. “What better way to commemorate his life than contributing to a program that will assist another surgical student?” says Joy. “He would be delighted to know about this.”

She made her initial gift by taking advantage of the charitable IRA rollover legislation. The legislation—which expired on December 31, 2011—allowed investors age 70 ½ and older to directly transfer up to $100,000 from an IRA to charity without paying income tax on the amount transferred.

“I look at the life we established and it’s enviable in many ways,” says Joy. “You live, you work, and you enjoy the fruits of your labor. It’s time now to give back to the source of Michael’s learning.”