Student Emergency Needs Fund a lifeline for many on their white coat journeys


With bills piling up and her parents no longer able to financially contribute to her living expenses—due to months-long unemployment resulting from COVID-19 related shutdowns—a fourth-year international student reached out to Dr. Katherine Ruger, associate dean of admissions and student life in the College of Osteopathic Medicine, for help.

Ruger suggested that the student (who asked to remain anonymous for this article) apply for an emergency needs fund award. Shortly after, she immediately received enough funding to cover a month’s rent.

“I was so happy to receive the $750 that they gave me to get by another month,” she said. “Every little bit helps right now. I’m grateful for Dr. Ruger.”

“We saw an immediate need due to the impact COVID-19 had on our students’ financial well-being, particularly those students who are ineligible for federal financial aid assistance,” Ruger said. “I worked with the college’s director of development to create a fund to bridge the need gap for our students, who work so incredibly hard to achieve their career goals, while simultaneously dealing with financial stressors which may have an impact on their ability to continue in the program.”

The newly established fund has already distributed over $2,000 to students.

Facing international tuition costs, rent, utilities, groceries, loan interest payments and more, the OMS-IV student was distraught when her financial support system collapsed. Her mom worked retail and—­­after rounds of shutdowns—was unable to continue contributing to her living expenses. She immediately searched for alternate funding sources, but as months dragged on, she reached a point where she needed urgent help. That’s when she turned to the college’s resources.

She offers the following advice to other students who may be struggling financially.

“It’s hard to reach out for help but resources are available and there’s always people who are open to help. If it lessens your burden, it’s one less thing to worry about and you can focus on med school.”

Any osteopathic medical student who needs immediate support can contact Ruger, speak with the Office of International Students and Scholars, and/or connect with the college’s financial aid or counseling and academic advising teams. Students are asked to fill out a short application form explaining their circumstances and how funds will be used. Eligible students may receive up to $1,000 depending on fund availability.

Excited to match into a family medicine residency program soon, the Canadian student says her dream to be in medicine was sparked by international childhood trips where she saw health disparities.

“Medicine would put me in the best position to care for vulnerable communities, and I really liked the college’s global health emphasis,” she said.

She wants to dedicate her career to reducing barriers to health care locally and globally, especially among women, LGBTQ+ and homeless populations. She already has experience bringing health care to homeless patients through Detroit Street Care, which she credits as one of the most fulfilling experiences of her medical school experience. She also plans to continue conducting research to promote evidence-based practices to achieve policy changes.

She encourages donors to give to the Student Emergency Needs Fund through the upcoming Give Green Day fundraising push on March 16.

“We’re going to be physicians who serve our communities in the best way we can, and this assistance helps us reach that goal.”

Ruger added, “For the past year, many of our osteopathic medical students have not only carried the stress of getting through medical school in ways none of us imagined, but also have experienced personal hardships, potentially affecting their osteopathic medical journeys. The College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Student Emergency Fund makes an immediate and transformative impact on a student’s life and keeps them on the road to becoming a future physician.”

If you would like to contribute to the fund, visit our Give Green Day page on Tuesday, March 16 and click the Give Now button to make a difference in an osteopathic medical student’s life. Be sure to follow our social media accounts too and help us raise funds for this important cause.