Medical School Alum Donates to Support Student Travel

When Bruce Faust, M.D., graduated from UT Southwestern Medical Center in 1963, he drove away in his Ford. For him and his late wife, Cynthia, it began the ride of their lifetime, and after a brief stint in the Air Force, they settled with their two children in Irving, Texas.

Now at age 85, Dr. Faust drives an electric car, a white Tesla. The retired orthopedic surgeon returns to UT Southwestern at least twice a week to attend grand rounds or volunteer as an anatomy instructor, as he’s done for the last 25 years. During that time, he’s seen things change at the institution: new buildings, of course, and the people to go with them.

“After I finished my residency in orthopedics and came back to UT Southwestern, the Orthopaedic Surgery Department only had two people in it,” he said. Today it boasts more than 80.

The cost of medical education has changed, too.

In the U.S., the average medical school debt hovers around $200,000, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. While tuition and fees at UT Southwestern amount to less than half of those at costlier private medical schools, there are other expenses to consider.

This year, 224 UT Southwestern Medical Center students matched to U.S. residency programs in hospitals across the U.S., with more than 100 matching to hospitals affiliated with top 25 medical schools, including the UT Southwestern. Casanowe

After medical school, students go on to complete at least three years of residency training, and the application process is rigorous. Some academic medical centers still prefer in-person residency interviews, and many students want to see where they will spend the next chapter of their life up-close, often resulting in multiple trips to visit residency programs.

Costs add up. Whether by car or airplane, finding the money to travel – including hotel, meals, and maybe an interview suit – can be challenging. Hearing about the financial hardship posed by checking out far-flung residencies on the East Coast or West Coast has become a common refrain for Dr. Faust, who has known many medical students who were unable to visit their preferred match sites because money was tight.

“I would hear how students were going to an interview, New York one week and a different hospital the next,” he said. “They were spending quite a bit of time and money making these visits.”

Associate Professor of Surgery Sara Hennessy, M.D., third from right, reviews patient charts with UT Southwestern Medical Center residents in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital. Fifty three students from UT Southwestern's Class of 2024 will pursue their residency training at the Medical Center. Henrik Olund/UT Southwestern Medical Center

To help those students, Dr. Faust put up his own money with a recent gift to UT Southwestern. With the new residency travel fund, students can apply for support to cover travel-related expenses, like airfare, fuel, lodging – even new clothing for their interviews.

“The help comes at a critical time in their careers and although the students have significant earnings potential, that might be lessened if the student is going to practice community medicine in a small town like Darrouzett,” Dr. Faust said of the rural Texas town, population 350, that sits a scant 10 minutes from the Oklahoma panhandle. “I have known three people from there, and there are no big salaries to be had. For students who want to practice in small towns, these funds will allow them to allocate more money to repaying their loans.”

Dr. Faust’s generosity will translate to one less worry for students who are already juggling a lot.

“We’re delighted that Dr. Faust decided to support our students in this way,” said Angela Mihalic, M.D., UT Southwestern's Dean of Medical Students, Associate Dean of Student Affairs, and a Distinguished Teaching Professor. “The cost of applying to residency programs adds up, considering the requirement to complete month-long, off-campus rotations and a return to in-person interviews. Funds for travel are often an unrecognized cost associated with the process.”