Randy Epstein, MD ’80, a former resident, longtime faculty member and corneal surgeon, considers himself “triply indebted” to RUSH. More than 40 years after arriving at RUSH as a first-year medical student, Epstein still speaks with pride about the close bonds among his classmates, the strength of his mentors and teachers, and RUSH’s humanistic approach to medical education.
“I had a number of college fraternity brothers who were going to RUSH,” he said. “They had a really great medical school experience and encouraged me and others to come here. The faculty were very avant-garde, and the class was extremely diverse. RUSH was far ahead of the curve when it came to diversity; we had people in my class who were theater majors, in their second career or grandparents. The class was cohesive and mutually supportive; it was a phenomenal experience.”
After graduating from medical school, Epstein decided to focus on ophthalmology and complete his residency training at RUSH. He then spent two years at Emory University in Atlanta for his fellowship training before returning to RUSH to join the faculty.
“This is the kind of institution where people develop a connection and tend to stick around,” he said. “It’s hard to be an alumnus or faculty member at RUSH and not feel that you’re part of a very special enterprise. Tom Deutsch [MD, former dean of RUSH Medical College] once commented on why people stay involved and support RUSH: ‘It’s because you love this place.’ All those who went to med school here develop a strong bond and a feeling of indebtedness and gratitude for the experience they had because it’s very special.”
Leaving a legacy
In 2002, Epstein’s father passed away suddenly at age 72. Left to decide where the family should direct gifts in his memory, Epstein quickly chose RUSH. Not only did the memorial gifts help Epstein and his family feel that something positive could come from their sorrow, but they also inspired him to become more involved with philanthropy. His planned gift in support of education and research in the Department of Ophthalmology allows him to play a role in helping to ensure that the special brand of medical education that he experienced continues long into the future.
“When you lose a loved one, it gets you thinking about your will and what’s going to happen,” Epstein said. “Planned giving is a way of enabling something good to come out of something bad. It gives people an opportunity to both acknowledge your grief and memorialize your loved one through a philanthropic cause that is near and dear to your heart. When I pass away, rather than my family having to scramble and cobble something together, I wanted to already have something in place. So I made a bequest in my will to RUSH with the funds to be used to support educational activities for ophthalmology residents.”
Epstein’s multigenerational family ties to RUSH made the decision to donate easy, too. His wife, Linda Katz, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist, and daughter, Rachel Epstein, MD, an ophthalmologist, both completed their residencies at RUSH. Those connections further encouraged Epstein’s passion for giving back, leading to his membership in the Rush Heritage Society and the Benjamin Rush Society, the annual giving society for RUSH Medical College.
Overall, though, Epstein says his main motivation is his love for RUSH and his belief that it is the best place to learn and practice the art and science of medicine.
“Those of us who are RUSH alumni or faculty have watched the institution’s continued growth over time,” he said. “We know this growth hasn’t come easily — it’s because people have been generous and dug deep. It’s a very humbling atmosphere to practice in. Coming here — as a student, faculty member or patient — is a decision I don’t think anyone would regret.”
All Alumni Weekend: Established in 1972, RUSH University is celebrating 50 years of excellence Oct. 21-22 during All Alumni Weekend. A weekend-long celebration, this event will connect alumni from all four colleges — RUSH University College of Nursing, RUSH Medical College, RUSH University College of Health Sciences and RUSH Graduate College — with University leaders, fellow alumni, current and former faculty, students, staff and friends, and showcase RUSH’s history and the University’s exciting vision for the future.