Gift to Tufts University will fund new anatomy lab and family medicine scholarships

High-tech, digital imaging to be blended into centuries-old rite-of-passage dissection class; gift from Jaharis Family Foundation Inc. will also ease student debt to address national shortage of family medicine specialists
Malden, Mass. - Amy Hung, M18, meets with patient Geraldine Santo during an appointment at the Family Medicine Department of Cambridge Health Alliance on August 18, 2016. (Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)
September 21, 2016

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Siobhan Gallagher

BOSTON (September 21, 2016)—The gross anatomy laboratory at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston will be relocated, expanded and integrated with state-of-the-art digital imaging thanks to a $15 million gift from the Jaharis Family Foundation Inc. The funding from the Jaharis family will also provide scholarships for 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 says 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,” says Monaco, an accomplished medical researcher and geneticist. “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.”

New Gross Anatomy Laboratory

Advances in diagnostic imaging technologies are changing not only the practice of medicine but also medical education. While some medical schools have adopted virtual reality to replace cadaver labs, the new gross anatomy lab reinforces the School’s commitment to hands-on physical dissection as a critical component of medical education. The incorporation of advanced medical imaging, such as CAT scans, MRIs and computer-based visualizations, directly into the new lab will provide a foundation for students to better understand diagnostic imaging in relation to an individual body.

“Overall, the trend has been for schools to go away from physical dissection, although many have come back to it,” says Jeffrey Marchant, Ph.D., research assistant professor and associate director of the Division of Medical Education at Tufts. “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. Some of the new lab’s highlights will include:  

  • A flexible design for 200+ students and faculty with surgical lighting and computer screens at each dissection table;
  • integration of high-resolution diagnostic imaging;
  • a 75-person adjacent classroom specially equipped to support active and group learning; and,
  • an advanced dissection lab adjacent to the main room and a specialty anatomy suite.

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.

Malden, Mass. - Alyssa Wohl, M18, and Resident Physician Spencer Ritnter meet with Lucrene Oliveira SantiAna and her nine-day-old baby during an appointment at the Family Medicine Department of Cambridge Health Alliance on September 8, 2016. (Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)

Scholarships for Students in Family Medicine

Two million dollars of the gift from the Jaharis Family Foundation will go toward assisting middle- to low-income fourth-year medical students who pursue careers in family medicine, typically among the lowest-paid specialties in medicine. Nationally, fewer medical school graduates choose primary care, and specifically family medicine, compared with other fields, and the American Academy of Family Physicians projects a shortfall of 21,000 family medicine physicians by 2025.

The high levels of debt and the relatively lower pay in family medicine pose a likely deterrent for students when it comes to choosing a specialty. “It’s our most underserved field,” says Amy Kuhlik, M.D., dean of student affairs at Tufts School of Medicine. “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, notes, “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.

The Jaharis Family Foundation Inc. and Tufts University School of Medicine

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.

Education was long an important cause for Jaharis family patriarch Michael Jaharis, who passed away in February. For many years he held a leadership role in the governance of 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 environment. Moreover, the Jaharis family has helped to build a robust family medicine department at Tufts. 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 Harris Berman, M.D., dean of Tufts University School of Medicine.

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,” says Steven Jaharis.

About Tufts University School of Medicine and the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences

Tufts University School of Medicine and the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences are international leaders in medical and population health education and advanced research. Tufts University School of Medicine emphasizes rigorous fundamentals in a dynamic learning environment to educate physicians, scientists, and public health professionals to become leaders in their fields. The School of Medicine and the Sackler School are renowned for excellence in education in general medicine, the biomedical sciences, and public health, as well as for innovative research at the cellular, molecular, and population health level. The School of Medicine is affiliated with six major teaching hospitals and more than 30 health care facilities. Tufts University School of Medicine and the Sackler School undertake research that is consistently rated among the highest in the nation for its effect on the advancement of medical and prevention science.

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