Michael R. Smith Memorial Loan Fund bolstered by Ziemann Foundation gift
June 26, 2012 College News - With a new gift, the Ziemann Foundation has strengthened its medical student loan fund at the Medical College and renamed it in memory of a foundation board member who helped make loan forgiveness more tax-friendly for certain student recipients.
The Michael R. Smith Memorial Loan Fund provides financial support to a Medical College of Wisconsin student who has demonstrated through his or her actions compassion and a commitment to caring for patients with cognitive disabilities. This dovetails with the mission of the Ziemann Foundation, which seeks to improve the quality of life for people with physical and developmental disabilities, particularly in southeastern Wisconsin.
“Our effort all along with the Ziemann Foundation, and now the loan fund, is to get better training at all levels to physicians so they can more
effectively manage patients with disabilities, who account for an increasing percentage of the population,” said Cindy Linnan, President of the Ziemann Foundation.
For recipients who engage in qualified work with underserved patient populations, especially those with cognitive disabilities, the foundation can choose to forgive the loan, meaning the student has no obligation to repay the borrowed money. Foundation leaders realized, however, that this causes the income to be reportable, resulting in a tax burden for the student they are attempting to help. Smith, who was an attorney with Reinhart Boerner Van Dueren s.c. in Milwaukee and an estate planning expert, sought to remedy this.
He took the initiative to work with the Medical College to craft a policy that allows tax-free forgiveness of the student loan, in accordance with the federal tax code. He did this pro bono and despite being diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer in 2009.
“As sick as he was, Mike was determined to get this policy accomplished with the Medical College,” Linnan said. “He was a top professional in his field, but he never stopped caring about people.”
Smith died in June 2011. He is survived by his wife of 26 years, Aileen, and his children, Patrick and Maureen.
“We are grateful that the Ziemann Foundation established the Michael R. Smith Memorial Loan Fund at the Medical College, and we deeply appreciate Mr. Smith’s dedication to the financial well-being of our graduates,” said College President and CEO John R. Raymond, Sr., MD. “We hope this policy can serve as a platform for others considering the establishment of a loan fund at the Medical College.”
The Ziemann Foundation’s recent $75,000 gift is meaningful as students face the substantial costs of a medical education while financial aid options continue to contract.
“With the average debt for the class of 2012 reaching $172,000, and the demise of any subsidized federal loans beginning in July, loan forgiveness programs offer a unique opportunity to significantly reduce the financial burden to our students,” said Jean Sunby, Medical College Student Loans manager.