When it was time for Tai-Po Tschang, MD’72, to decide where to go to medical school, the choice could hardly have been easier. Duke, in fact, made it for him.
“I applied to nine medical schools, and Duke was the only one that accepted me,” says Tschang. “I didn’t have any other choice. The others turned me down because I only had three years of college, but at Duke that was the requirement, as long as you had all the prerequisites. I was very happy they took me.”
It worked out well for all involved, actually. Tschang, who received a scholarship that paid his tuition at Duke University School of Medicine, earned his medical degree here, and after residencies at Washington University and St. Johns Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, he went on to a long and successful career as a clinical and anatomical pathologist. He’s been practicing in Fresno, California, for more than 30 years.
Tschang, a longtime philanthropic supporter of Duke University School of Medicine, recently marked his 45th class reunion by making a significant estate endowment to establish the Tai-Po and Grace Tschang Medical Scholarship.
“I was the recipient of a scholarship that covered my entire four years at Duke, and it made all the difference,” he says. “I was very grateful to Duke and to the scholarship fund for that. I wanted to support a medical school scholarship because of that.”
Born in Taiwan, Tschang was in high school in Hong Kong when he read Tom Dooley’s The Night They Burned the Mountain, a first-person account of a U.S. Navy doctor’s work to bring medical care to rural Laos. “That book moved me quite a bit,” he says. “I thought medicine would be a good field to go into.”
It took some doing. Tschang had an older sister who was in the U.S., a student at the University of Southern Illinois in Carbondale. Tschang applied to the same school.
“My father gave me a plane ticket and $500 in cash, and I got on a plane,” says Tschang. “I could stay with my sister, so I had free lodgings. I made straight A’s in the first quarter and got tuition aid from that point on.”
He excelled at Southern Illinois. And, once he was accepted at Duke, he excelled at the School of Medicine as well.
Tschang has never forgotten that Duke was the only medical school willing to give him a chance way back when. So, when he came back for his 45th class reunion in 2017, he wanted to make a gift that would give other students the same sort of chance.
“Duke gave me an opportunity that I couldn’t have had anywhere else,” he says. “I hope other alumni will do the same thing and give back to Duke.”