Pioneering OHSU Alumna Leaves Multimillion-Dollar Legacy to Endow Scholarships for Medical Students

05/12/08  Portland, Ore.

Mary Jane Stamm, M.D., donated more than $6 million for medical-student scholarships.

Oregon Health & Science University will receive more than $6 million for medical-student scholarships from the estate of Mary Jane Stamm, M.D., a pioneering OHSU alumna and respected California obstetrician who died last year at age 91.

Stamm was one of only two female graduates in the University of Oregon (now OHSU) Medical School class of 1943 and later became the first female Ob/Gyn in her adopted hometown of Castro Valley, Calif. In keeping with the strides she made for women in medicine, OHSU officials said Stamm's gift would promote diversity and expand educational opportunities at Oregon's only medical school while honoring her lifelong commitment to medicine and higher education.

Stamm delivered thousands of babies during her long career, and her devotion to young people followed many of them far beyond the delivery room. Over the years and without fanfare, she provided more than a half-million dollars in college scholarships to students at Castro Valley High School - a tradition that will live on at the school through her estate gift of $750,000.

"We are moved and honored by Dr. Stamm's extraordinary generosity," said Mark Richardson, M.D., M.Sc.B., M.B.A., dean of the OHSU School of Medicine. "Her gift will ease the financial burden of a medical education for a significant number of outstanding students, while helping us to achieve some extremely worthwhile objectives in the recruitment and retention of top students."

Today, 65 years after Stamm earned her medical degree, about 60 percent of OHSU's M.D. students are women, he said.  "Gender may be less of an issue in medicine, but economic and other obstacles remain that deter potentially great doctors from entering the field," he said. "With this wonderful gift, we can reach out to these people and help contribute to a future in which our physician workforce mirrors the diversity of the patients we serve."

Competition for admission to OHSU's acclaimed M.D. program is stiff, with more than 4,000 prospective students from across the nation vying each year for 120 available slots. But the very best of these applicants receive multiple offers. When it comes to persuading them to choose OHSU, the availability of scholarships can give the university a critical competitive edge.

Student financial aid is crucial, too, in making medical school more affordable in the face of rising tuition. Medical education experts nationwide worry that indebtedness is having an undue influence on students' career choices. Faced with repaying six-figure student loans, many students simply cannot afford to pursue less profitable areas of medicine, such as providing care in rural communities. In Oregon, which is experiencing dramatic declines in its physician workforce, leaders are concerned that there will not be enough doctors to meet the basic healthcare needs of the state's medically underserved populations in the very near future. OHSU officials said private support such as Dr. Stamm's gift can make a significant impact on these and other issues threatening the well-being of Oregonians.

Stamm's friend and attorney James J. Phillips said her gift reflected a strong desire to help others follow in her footsteps. "It must not have been easy for Mary Jane in those early days," he said, "yet she overcame the odds to achieve her dreams. She was very proud that her accomplishments opened doors to the medical profession for others over the years. It's fitting that her legacy will create a permanent door to opportunity at her alma mater."

 "Dr. Stamm was a trailblazer and a leader in her lifetime and we are honored to have her name associated in perpetuity with our most distinguished medical students," said OHSU Foundation Co-President Constance French. "At a time when we face unprecedented challenges in meeting students' financial needs, this general scholarship will put OHSU's excellent programs within easier reach of promising students from all walks of life."

Stamm was born in Washington State in 1915.  She received her undergraduate degree in zoology at Mills College in Oakland, Calif., before enrolling at the University of Oregon Medical School. After earning her medical degree, she studied surgical techniques in Chicago before returning to the Bay Area as an assistant clinical professor of obstetrics-gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco. In addition to conducting research into fertility and infertility, she practiced at several Bay Area hospitals before opening her Castro Valley office in 1950. In 1954, she became the only woman Ob/Gyn on the medical staff of the newly established Eden Hospital. Her personal interests included gardening, golfing, travel and caring for her many animals. She died February 6, 2007.

For information about supporting OHSU's students and faculty, contact the OHSU Foundation at 503 228-1730, 


About the OHSU Foundation

The OHSU Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that exists to secure private philanthropic support for Oregon Health & Science University. The foundation raises funds from individuals, companies, foundations and organizations, and invests and manages gifts in accordance with donors' wishes.