LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The rain was hammering the tent above those in attendance for Tuesday’s announcement on the University of Kentucky campus. But just as the man of the hour was concluding his remarks, the sun began to peek through. It may not have been a coincidence given what was going on here today.
“His influence will be felt by generations of students and the patients they are destined to serve,” said UK President, Dr. Eli Capilouto.
Today was the dream scenario for any university president; when a benefactor comes through with an eight-figure donation. Dr. Michael Rankin did just that, gifting 22 million dollars for the school to begin construction on a new medical teaching facility. 12 million dollars of that money will be placed in a scholarship endowment in Dr. Rankin’s name.
While growing up in rural Lincoln County, Rankin always thought medical school was for the wealthy. He doesn’t want it to be that way for those young people who have upbringings similar to his own.
“We sold a cow to cover my first year of (undergraduate) tuition,” Dr. Rankin said.
“My scholarship is for those kids coming from households with financial challenges from rural Kentucky and in particular, rural Appalachia, to be able to come to medical school,” he said. “Yes they can get student loans, but that doesn’t cover everything,” he continued.
Those loans also become a massive financial burden on a physician upon completion of his/her studies, and that fact alone is causing a shortage of primary care physicians, one which the Commonwealth could feel in coming years, according to medical experts.
“The salaries are not that great in primary care, so they go to sub-specialty medicine to pay off those high debts. As a result, they leave the state for that training and (most) never come back,” Dr. Rankin explained.
Rankin practiced family medicine for nearly 40 years. He graduated from UK in the early seventies with a degree in Engineering but always felt his calling was in the medical field. The engineering work paid for medical school, which he completed in 1983 before heading to Atlanta to open his own practice.
He’s now retired and living in Boyle County. From there, he’ll look forward to seeing future physicians earning their degrees while helping to choose scholarship recipients.
“This will make sure they don’t have to eat soup or sleep on the floor in a friend’s apartment, so they can concentrate on their studies,” Rankin said of this scholarship money.
It’ll also ensure no one has to sell a cow to cover the bills!
Rankin’s donation is the second-largest single gift the university has ever received. Funding for the healthcare teaching complex - beyond the initial 10 million dollar gift - will come from private philanthropy and university funding, according to UK spokesperson, Jay Blanton.