For Your Health

News from the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences

Wedding it forward

M.D. program grads Allison Clapp and Chris Anderson on how their wedding turned into a scholarship endowment for UND medical students.

“I think everyone gave,” reminisced Dr. Allison Clapp of the request that guests make a donation in lieu of gifts for the 2013 wedding in Fargo, N.D., of Clapp and her bridegroom, Dr. Chris Anderson. “It was end-of-year donation time and I think almost everyone opted to give a donation rather than a typical wedding gift.”

The donation in question was to the then-brand new Dr. Christopher Anderson and Dr. Allison Clapp Scholarship Distribution Fund, which the couple had just founded with the UND Alumni Association & Foundation in honor of their marriage.

“People still give to it,” smiled Chris. “Every year, one of our good friends continues to give to the fund. We don’t even ask. His company matches, so he gives—”

“We have a couple of friends and family who do that,” Allison added excitedly. “We have another friend who graduated from UND and she gives every year too. We’re very thankful to those for doing that – still.”

Ten years into both a marriage and a named endowment that provides a scholarship to at least one medical student each year, the pair of Fargo-natives are continually amazed at what their modest attempt to give back has meant to so many students over the past decade.

Targeting UND medical students originally from Fargo, the endowment ideally assists a student who graduated from Fargo South High School – which produced both Clapp and Anderson. But the physicians admit that they’re not especially picky.

“The demographics have changed in Fargo since we graduated,” continued Chris. “It’s not any longer the most affluent neighborhood in Fargo, and we think it’s important to support students who may not have had the same opportunities that other kids in the more affluent parts of the city have.”

Feeling intensely the desire to “pay it forward,” then, the couple, both of whom completed a residency at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. – in emergency medicine and radiology, respectively – reflected on the assistance they received from donors while they were working their way through medical school in Grand Forks.

“I needed help from scholarships along the way, and I received several, both undergrad and in medical school,” said Chris. “And this was a chance to pay it forward. I feel that if you receive money from a scholarship, your goal should be to at least give that back when you’re able.”

Allison put it a bit more bluntly.

“[A scholarship] puts you at ease and helps you to focus on your education and not on the cost of school and worrying about how you’re going to pay for it all,” she emphasized. “A lot of our classmates at UND, during our time there, had families. How do you get through an education with a family, get them to daycare, get them to the activities they need, and be worried about how you’re going to get a meal on the table and pay for your school?”

You don’t, she said, which is why, scholarships are “huge.”

Part of the reason to focus on students from Fargo, added Chris, is that students from the area are more likely to either stay in or return to North Dakota to practice. This fact is vitally important for a state in the midst of an ongoing shortage of health providers at all levels.

“In the upper Midwest especially, it’s crucial to get more local recruits into medicine,” said the emergency physician, noting that locally-grown students – if they have less debt – often opt to practice in North Dakota. “It’s sometimes tough to recruit [to the Red River Valley] the types of people that typically like to go into emergency medicine – there’s no mountain to go skiing on. Emergency medicine folks tend to be adventurous, looking for that kind of lifestyle, and there’s just not a lot of those opportunities in this area.”

Nodding at her husband’s notion that his team has “been in recruiting mode for the nine-plus years I’ve been back in Fargo,” Allison added that North Dakota needs more radiologists too.

“I’d say the same for radiology: constant recruitment for positions here. And it’s not just Fargo – right now it’s everywhere.”

And scholarships help, she said. A lot.

This is why the two UND grads encouraged their classmates – and all graduates of the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences – to explore giving options that work for them.

“I think if you tried to quantify the amount of benefit we got out of going to medical school at UND, it far exceeds whatever amount we had to pay,” concluded Chris. “We got a ton out of our experience and I just feel a big debt to repay.”

Allison agreed, calling UND’s medical program in particular one of the area’s best kept secrets and remembering how well prepared she felt to practice medicine coming out of UND.

“I would challenge my classmates and other graduates to give,” Allison added, explaining how her medical education matched, if not exceeded, that of many of the residents she met at Mayo who were coming from places like Harvard and Duke University. “We were unbelievably well trained [at UND]. You don’t realize that until you go to your residency and you can see that what you get from UND is priceless. So, let’s all give back and help secure the future of our state and our healthcare here.”

To contribute to the Dr. Christopher Anderson and Dr. Allison Clapp Scholarship Distribution Fund, contact Jeff Dodson at jeffd@UNDfoundation.org or visit the UND Alumni Association & Foundation online at UNDalumni.org.

By Brian James Schill