Mayo Clinic gets its largest gift ever: $200 million to train doctors of the future

November 13, 2018

The founder of a corporate turnaround firm is donating $200 million to Mayo Clinic to help future doctors afford medical school and train them in areas such as genetics and artificial intelligence that are becoming central to modern medicine.

The endowment gift by Jay Alix, announced Tuesday morning, is the largest in Mayo’s history. The Rochester-based health care provider is renaming its medical school as the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine in recognition.

“This gift will have a long-lasting impact as we boldly transform medical education and research training so the next generation of care providers can improve patient care, accelerate discovery and advance the practice of medicine,” said Dr. John Noseworthy, Mayo’s president and chief executive, in a written statement.

Alix of Birmingham, Mich., said he has long admired and studied Mayo’s “one-stop shop” approach to treating patients with complex illnesses, and wanted to preserve that legacy for the next generation of doctors.

“Mayo produces doctors who really put the needs of the patients first,” said Alix, who serves on Mayo’s board of trustees.

Alix founded New York-based AlixPartners, which has consulted over the past 40 years in the turnarounds of firms such as Unisys, Zenith, DirectTV and Kodak. He worked in the Twin Cities in the mid-1990s in the restructuring of National Car Rental.

After his wife died in 2000, Alix sold his controlling interest in the firm to raise his daughters, but continued to provide consulting advice. In 2008, he engineered the plan that saved General Motors and prevented the company’s failure from deepening the economic recession.

Alix said his initial interest in Mayo came through studying its business practices. He then started coming to Rochester for regular physicals and primary care. Alix donated $10 million a decade ago to help Mayo preserve its medical model, and allow physicians to spend the kind of extended time talking with patients and studying mysterious illnesses that doesn’t always get covered by health insurance.

But he said he has been increasingly concerned by the rising costs of medical education, which might be driving potential doctors away from the profession at a time when the nation faces a shortage. The Association of American Medical Colleges has projected a shortage of 121,000 physicians by 2030.

The endowment will increase scholarships to lower the cost of medical school at Mayo, which is around $50,000 per year.

“I really want to help students,” Alix said. “The cost of medical education today is very high, it’s almost prohibitive. Meanwhile the situation for doctors in the future is very challenging, because the economics of medicine are becoming more depressed.”

At the same time, medical research is identifying ways to prolong and extend life through genetics, virtual reality and data analysis. The endowment will inspire dual educational tracks so that doctors can study medicine and learn how to apply these technologies to patient care.

“The question is how do you translate that into the educational environment, into medical education,” Alix said, “so that new doctors coming out of medical school are trained in it and ready to go?”

Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744

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