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There was a time, back when he attended the University of Oregon Medical School (now Oregon Health & Science University), when Ed Grossenbacher, MD, lived like a bit of a pauper. If need be, he would sleep in his car, pinch all his pennies and be grateful for any extras that came his way.
“I didn’t have any money as a medical student,” he said. “A half a hamburger would come through the cafeteria line and I would eat like a king.”
Grossenbacher made his way through medical school, served as a flight surgeon in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and has been in private practice in the Portland area since 1971.
He is also now the CEO and cofounder of Medical Evaluations of Oregon/Washington, a medical evaluations practice in Portland.
But he never forgot his scrappy med student days. And when, a few years ago, he saw what the average medical student carries in student loan debt -- the Association of American Medical Colleges pegged it at $176,300 in 2015; the American Student Dental Association reported that dental students’ average debt tops $216,000 -- Grossenbacher wanted to do something to help.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said.
Grossenbacher’s approach was to buy a home on Marquam Hill near the medical school and offer it to medical students at no cost. The first three students, Ishan Patel, Glenn Kautz and Paul Montgomery, moved into the house in 2015 and are currently in their senior year of school. In addition to letting them live in the home rent free, Grossenbacher also picks up all the utilities and occasionally drops by with snacks and beer for the fridge.
“I think they’re all very appreciative because they all could use the help to avoid some of that debt,” he said.
In addition to the house, Grossenbacher has an adjacent graveled area that’s large enough for five cars. He offered to let the students sell the parking spaces as a way to generate some additional income for themselves while they’re in school. The students instead shared their good fortune with some of their fellow learners, offering up the spaces for free to students who are on surgical call at the hospital.
“So, they’re helping out even more people that way,” Grossenbacher said.
While Grossenbacher said he gets a “bounce in his heart” from helping out the three students, he would still like to do more. For starters, he’ll find another cohort of students to move into the home when the current residents move out. He’s also on the hunt for additional houses in the area to acquire, primarily fixer-uppers near the medical school, though he knows those can be hard to come by these days.
“All the ones up there are at a premium,” he said, “but I’m optimistic I could get 20 houses.”
That kind of lofty goal might take a little assistance, but Grossenbacher’s already thinking about that. He started a nonprofit call the Hippocrates Oath Oregon Foundation to encourage and facilitate other donors who might be interested in helping out. He’s also optimistic that there are supporters out there who might be looking for ways to help medical students and the good work that OHSU does.
“I don’t need an angel,” Grossenbacher said, “just some people who might be interested in helping out. If we could get a big house up there, get six or seven more students and away we go.”
OHSU medical student Ishan Patel, who shares with two other students a house provided by Ed Grossenbacher, MD, noted on OHSU’s website that the arrangement “... is an incredible investment in our future. Dr. Grossenbacher has helped us tremendously by significantly lowering our debt and therefore allowing us to keep our minds open as to the careers we pursue.”
Native Portlander Dr Edward Grossenbacher received his medical dgree from OHSU with the class of 1964. His undergraduate work was done at Willamette University and prior to that he was a well known basketball player from Milwaukie High School in Porland.
He completed his residency in orthopedics from Marquette University Milwaukee, WI. After returnuing to Portland he joined active practice with Geist, Post, Grossenhbacher and Vessley in 1971.
Dr. Grossenbacher served in Viet Nam as a decorated US Army fligh surgeon. Retired now, Dr. Grossenbacher remains chairman of the board of MEOW, a local medical evaluation company he founded.
Ed Grossenbacher, who is known as "The Legend" holds 53 world and national handball championships.
Ed is the father of three and grandfather of four. He continues to live in the NW hills on the edge of Forest Park.
All donations are tax deductable, and leave you with a warm and fuzzy feeling, knowing you are helping our future healers avoid the crushing debt that is all too prevalent in our current environment.
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