Alfred L. DeSanctis: Enriching Medical Students’ Lives

Studying medicine wasn’t part of the plan when Alfred L. DeSanctis, SOM 1951, was an undergraduate at Hamilton College. Armed with a scholarship from the state of New York and a private scholarship that paid for his violin lessons, the arts- and humanities-minded young man pursued a degree in romance languages.

He became interested in medicine after a stint in the army and earned his medical degree from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1951. When he opened his own surgical practice nearly two decades after his college graduation, Dr. DeSanctis realized that his humanities background gave him an advantage.

“I observed in medicine the shortcomings of people schooled only in science,” Dr. DeSanctis says. “The arts and humanities teach you to be a human being.”

With that in mind, Dr. DeSanctis recently documented a bequest intention to endow the Ernest and Ruth DeSanctis Scholarship for students at the School of Medicine. When fully funded, the scholarship will support medical students whose undergraduate education focused on the humanities. Dr. DeSanctis has named the scholarship fund for his father and stepmother, whom he credits with inspiring his interest in the humanities.

“We always had art in the house,” he remembers of his childhood. “Every time my father could afford to buy a record album, he would be joyous. Thanks to the Victrola, we had music during dinner.”

Although the endowment for the Ernest and Ruth DeSanctis Scholarship won't be created until his death, Dr. DeSanctis has elected to provide current-use funds each year so that students can benefit from the scholarships. That means that the first two students, members of the SOM class of 2005, have enjoyed Dr. DeSanctis’ friendship as well as his generosity. The three men recently met for an evening of conversation, and Dr. DeSanctis shared his own experiences about leading a balanced life. He sums it up: “Art enriched my life and gave me something beyond medicine.”

Gift vehicles used: Bequest and annual gifts

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