The gift includes $150 million for an endowment in support of full-tuition scholarships for medical students who qualify for financial aid — currently about half the students enrolled in the school — with the aim of ultimately eliminating medical student debt. About 20 percent of Columbia medical students — those with the greatest need — will receive full-tuition scholarships, while the remaining 30 percent will receive partial scholarships so they do not have to take out loans. Currently, Columbia medical students who qualify for financial aid typically are required to borrow at least $30,000 a year to help pay for their tuition.
The remaining $100 million will fund precision medicine programs and basic science research at the school and endow a professorship in the Department of Medicine in honor of Thomas P. Jacobs, the Vagelos family's longtime doctor and friend. In recognition of the gift, the medical school will be renamed the Columbia University Roy and Diana Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.
The gift brings to more than $310 million the Vageloses' support for Columbia's medical school, including a $50 million gift in 2010 to fund the design and construction of a medical and graduate education center. After completing his medical degree in 1954, P. Roy Vagelos conducted research at the National Institutes of Health, served as chair of the Department of Biological Chemistry at Washington University in St. Louis, and led Merck & Co. as chair and CEO. Currently chair of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, he chairs the Columbia University Irving Medical Center's board of advisors and co-chairs the university's current capital campaign.
"Roy and Diana Vagelos truly understand that having a scholarship fund of this magnitude puts medical school within reach of the most talented students, regardless of their ability to pay," said Lee Goldman, dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine and chief executive of Columbia University Medical Center. "Within the next five years, the income generated from this endowment will allow us to replace loans with scholarships for students with financial need, thereby allowing them to choose a medical specialty based on their true passion and highest calling, rather than on income potential."