With a major gift from a former trustee, the University of the Virgin Islands is resuming its quest to open an accredited medical school.
On Tuesday, the university announced that Donald Sussman, the founder of hedge fund Paloma Partners, has donated $6 million to the newly named S. Donald Sussman School of Medicine.
“This is an exciting milestone for our university and, more importantly, our entire community,” said UVI President David Hall. “The S. Donald Sussman School of Medicine will improve the quality of education and health care across the Virgin Islands, and this donation reinforces Donald’s passion for and belief in the transformative power of both.”
The university has struggled for years to open a medical school.
The Liaison Committee on Medical Education rejected UVI’s first application in October 2015, and identified several weaknesses with the application, including a lack of scholarship funding to reduce the debt burden on graduates.
University officials had estimated they’d need an additional $10 million to properly fund the school. The last public tally, presented in August 2016, put the amount raised so far at $3 million. And, in the wake of the 2017 hurricanes, the school put fundraising efforts largely on hold.
With Sussman’s gift now in place, the school says it will reapply for accreditation in November. “As he has done in the past, Donald has provided the financial support for us to realize our goal,” Hall stated in Tuesday’s announcement. “We are now actively raising a scholarship fund to compliment his generous gift, which will allow us to provide prospective students with the financial support they may need to realize their goal of studying and practicing medicine. Please join us if you are interested in helping us make this dream a reality.”
Facilities will include a simulation training center on St. Croix; a classroom building that contains an anatomy lab, 100-seat lecture hall and a clinical skills lab, and a biomedical laboratory facility on St. Thomas.
In addition to studying at UVI, once the medical students are in their third year, they will start going into local medical facilities on St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas to get hands-on experience. Sussman has previously donated $1 million to Blue Hill Memorial Hospital in Maine, $12 million to Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and at least $1.75 million to UVI.