For Your Health
For Your Health

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

A rising tide lifts all boats

School of Medicine & Health Sciences expands its “Adopt” campaign to cover more health professions

Most of us are familiar with the term “adopt” in the legal context as it revolves around the notion of parenthood.

At the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences, though, the term’s additional meanings – embrace and assume, establish and sponsor – have for more than a decade defined the School’s Adopt- A-Med-Student and Adopt-A-PA programs.

Through these programs, generous donors to the SMHS provide engraved stethoscopes for first-year medical students and white coats to physician assistant students starting clinical rotations. This important moment in students’ lives not only provides them with a necessary tool-of-the-trade but connects them with what UND hopes is a lifelong provider-mentor – a lasting, supportive connection between students and donors.

This year, more than 12 years after unveiling the original concept, the SMHS is expanding its Adopt campaign to include all patient care programs at the School.

The move to increase the overall donor pool at the School and create a sweeping Adopt-An-SMHS-Student campaign is a big deal, suggests UND Alumni Association & Foundation Chief Executive Officer DeAnna Carlson Zink.

“The ‘Adopt’ campaign is an easy way to give back to multiple programs within the School of Medicine & Health Sciences,” said Carlson Zink. “By giving a gift of any size, our donors can create invaluable opportunities for our students. Not only will our students receive the necessary items to complete their education – like stethoscopes, white coats, or association memberships – they will be paired with mentors in the health profession who have walked in their shoes.”

Dr. Don Person (B.S. Med, ’61), a longtime donor to the medical and physician assistant campaigns, agreed, calling himself an “avid supporter” of the program. What brings him back each year, said Person, is the opportunity to engage students directly and serve as a mentor to them as they begin their training. This is why he makes sure to write personalized letters to each student he “adopts.”

“I consider those letters an essential part of the program,” said Person from his home in San Antonio, Texas. “I have tried to make my comments encouraging, relevant, and timely. Separated by distance and time – current first-year students will be graduating from medical school 65 years after I did – I write letters of welcome to students that reflect the historical and unique underpinnings of their program at UND SMHS and provide the contrast that a half a century of medical and scientific discovery has brought.”

One of the recipients of Dr. Person’s “Person-alized” letters is second-year medical student Madeleine Flanders, who received her stethoscope in August 2022.

“When I received my stethoscope from Dr. Person, I felt that his knowledge, experience, and wisdom were symbolized in that gift,” said Flanders. “As I wear this stethoscope throughout my career, it will remind me that it is a privilege to practice medicine. As a first-generation medical student, I am grateful for his support and mentorship. Like Dr. Person, I hope someday to be able to provide another student the same direction and optimism through this powerful gift.”

And not only medicine. Person has likewise supported the Adopt-A-PA-Student program since its inception in 2019.

“Having spent nearly 50 years in the U.S. Army, I was familiar with the origins and history of physician assistants or physician associates,” added the donor who established, with his spouse, the Dr. Donald and Blanche Person Scholarship Endowment in support of medical students at the SMHS. “The gift of a white coat as a second-year PA student begins clinical studies is a tangible way to connect the provider with the patient. I have thoroughly enjoyed writing letters to the PA students and just as with thank you letters from medical students, I know when that spark of recognition occurs!”

Today, such a spark is available not only to students of medicine and physician assistant studies, but physical and occupational therapy, medical laboratory science, athletic training, and public health.

For a minimum gift of $100 for health sciences students or $250 for medical students, sponsors can provide students with a valuable tool of the trade or help them secure professional association memberships for continued educational opportunities.


  • $250 Medicine: An “entry-level” Littmann stethoscope
  • $100 Physician Assistant: An embroidered white coat
  • $100 Physical Therapy: A gear bag for holding a variety of tools useful to the practicing physical therapist
  • $100 Public Health: A student membership to the American Public Health Association
  • $100 Occupational Therapy: A student membership to the American Occupational Therapy Association
  • $100 Medical Laboratory Science: A student membership to the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science
  • $100 Athletic Training: A membership to the National Athletic Trainers Association

Gifts of $100, $250, or any amount can be:

  1. Mailed to the UND Alumni Association & Foundation, 3501 University Ave., Stop 8157, Grand Forks, ND, 58202. (Include “Adopt” and the program in question in the memo line);


  1. Submitted online at:

Letters of support to students can be included in option 1 above, added to the “Leave a comment” box when giving online via option 2, or emailed to

By Brian James Schill