Robert Gramer, MD’19, learned how much a skilled and compassionate physician can influence someone’s life after he suffered a series of catastrophic knee injuries and a juvenile form of macular degeneration during high school. Those setbacks crushed his lifelong dream of playing college basketball, but a pair of extraordinary doctors not only tended his medical challenges but also helped him defeat despair and redirect his dreams.
“It was not cutting-edge medical care or awe-inspiring treatments that led me to medicine,” says Gramer. “It was the willingness of two compassionate people to transform the most trying time of my life to the most formative time of my life.”
Ever since then, Gramer has dedicated himself to serving others in the same transformative way. As a fourth-year student at Duke University School of Medicine, he has mapped human cognition in neurosurgery patients. He has gone to Uganda to help create a better system to care for patients with serious head trauma. In early 2018, he begins a research fellowship in Toronto, working on deep brain stimulation to treat psychiatric disorders such as anorexia nervosa. Ultimately, Gramer plans to become a physician-scientist, practicing neurosurgery and doing research that will extend his healing reach far beyond the patients he directly treats.
All of this is possible due to the Rauch Family Merit Scholarship program. The Rauch Scholarship, which Dudley A. Rauch, T’63, established in 2013 as a 50th reunion gift, was the first all-inclusive scholarship at Duke University School of Medicine. The scholarship, which is awarded to one incoming medical student per year, provides full tuition, books, and ancillaries, plus a cash living allowance, for all four years of medical school.
“It’s difficult to put into words how much Mr. Rauch’s generosity has transformed my life,” says Gramer, who won the Rauch Scholarship in 2014. “The Rauch Scholarship provides me the opportunity to chase my dreams unbridled from the reins of debt. Because of this amazing opportunity, I have been able to fully explore my various interests within neurosurgery that otherwise I would have never dreamt possible. Mr. Rauch’s humanity has changed my life forever, and he will have a hand in helping every person I interact with through practice or research over the coming decades.”
Since Rauch established the program at Duke, five Rauch Scholarships have been awarded, all of them given to students who demonstrate both a passion for service and exceptional potential for a significant career in medicine.
Earlier this year, Rauch ensured that this remarkable opportunity will be available for incoming medical students for decades to come. In June 2017, he expanded his 2013 original gift by establishing an $8 million estate gift that will fund the program in perpetuity. On top of the over $2 million he has given to launch and fund the Rauch Scholarships thus far, that puts his giving to support School of Medicine students through the scholarship program at more than $10 million.
“Dudley Rauch’s remarkable generosity gives deserving medical students at Duke the opportunity to pursue their passion and further their careers without the pressure of student debt facing them when they graduate,” says Mary E. Klotman, T’76, MD’80, HS’80-’85, dean of Duke University School of Medicine and vice chancellor for health affairs at Duke University. “His bequest ensures that this opportunity will continue to be available for generations of incoming students. He embodies the Duke spirit, and we are extremely grateful for his support for the university and the School of Medicine.”
Rauch meets each Rauch Scholar at the annual Duke Health Scholarship and Fellowship Dinner celebrating donors.
“Investing in young people at Duke University School of Medicine is an extremely worthwhile investment,” says Rauch, who lives in California. “I have very high confidence that this program will produce excellent physicians who will have a positive impact on the world. The joy I get is in knowing that these scholarships are transformative in the lives of the recipients. The only thing I’ve ever asked is that, if they become financially successful, they please consider giving philanthropically themselves when they are able.”
Five Rauch Scholars have thus far been named: in addition to Gramer, they are Collin Kent, T’11, MD’17; Julia Salinaro, MD’19; Sam Hofacker, T’15, MD’20; and Meghan Price, T’16, MD’21. All five embody the values that Rauch intended to encourage in establishing the scholarship.
Salinaro became interested in medicine because it lay at the intersection of her two passions: science and service. She plans for a long-term career that involves both hands-on and longitudinal patient care.
“All of this—my pursuit of medical science, service, and teaching—has been made possible by the generosity of the Rauch family,” Salinaro says. “I’ve learned so much from our incredible faculty, residents, and patients that I can’t imagine being as well trained or well-supported anywhere else. I am forever grateful to the Rauch family for allowing me to take advantage of every opportunity at the School of Medicine without limitation.”
Hofacker credits his family with instilling in him a passion for solving problems and helping others. But financial considerations made following that passion into medical school at Duke a daunting prospect, until he got word that he’d been named the fourth Rauch Scholar.
“I’ve wanted to go to Duke since I was five, when my oldest cousin was accepted there,” says Hofacker. “I have hoped to become a doctor even longer. To be doing both is truly a dream come true. The Rauch Scholarship will allow me to choose my focus in medicine based on passion and interest, not on financial considerations. I am constantly humbled by the Rauch family’s gift and the freedom is has provided me.”
Rauch earned his undergraduate degree in mathematics at Duke in 1963 and followed that with an MBA at Harvard Business School. His father, Henry E. Rauch, was chairman of Burlington Industries and served on the Duke University Board of Trustees from 1964 to 1974. As vice chairman of the board, Henry Rauch worked closely with William G. Anlyan, then the dean of the School of Medicine, and played a key role in the major expansion of Duke Medical Center in the 1970s and early ‘80s.
Dudley Rauch served on the Duke alumni admissions advisory committee for 15 years and, in addition to the Rauch Scholarships, has given philanthropically to support Trinity College and several research areas in medicine, including rheumatology, cancer, and arthritis.
“It’s wonderful to be able to give money away and know that it will have a positive impact,” says Rauch. “My hope is that other alumni will reflect upon what a Duke education and the Duke imprimatur on their degrees has meant to their success, and will consider giving back as well.”
Gramer and the other Rauch Scholars say they intend to make sure that the benefits of Rauch’s giving reach far beyond themselves.
“The Rauch Scholarship has allowed me to delve into my distinct interests to discover what I am most passionate about,” says Gramer, who is also working toward a master’s of health sciences degree in clinical research. “And that has helped me think about how I can maximize Mr. Rauch’s generosity to pay forward this immense blessing throughout my career.”