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Solid Foundation

An innovative program at the Miller School helped set one doctor on a new path
Man holds up a model airplane while sitting in his storage room

Now retired, Dr. Richard Bartkowski counts collecting model airplanes among his hobbies.


s a student, Richard Bartkowski, M.D., was torn between two equally impactful career paths: physics and medicine. After graduating from Harvard University with a Ph.D. in physics and working for two years in the field, he decided he had chosen the wrong one.

That was 50 years ago. In 1972, Dr. Bartkowski enrolled in the University of Miami School of Medicine’s second Ph.D.-to-M.D. class. The innovative program, which no longer exists, was created at a time when there was a shortage of physicians and an oversupply of Ph.D.s who had difficulty finding work. Students were able to use their Ph.D. credits and graduate with a medical degree in two years instead of four.

“I would have never become a physician had it not been for the opportunity at the University of Miami,” Dr. Bartkowski said. “The program was rigorous and intensive, as well as quick and affordable. I studied with some of the brightest students and faculty in the country and had tremendous responsibility as a medical student. It prepared me very well for the rest of my medical training and a successful career in anesthesiology.”

Anesthesiology was a natural choice for Dr. Bartkowski because it is technical and drew on his physics background. Among those who inspired him in the field was Emanuel M. Papper, M.D., Ph.D., who was dean of the medical school at the time.

After Dr. Bartkowski graduated with his medical degree in 1974, he moved back to Philadelphia to raise his children near family. He was on staff at University of Pennsylvania Health System and later at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. Since retiring, Dr. Bartkowski has been able to spend more time with his wife, Catherine, two children and five grandchildren. He also enjoys restoring old cars, collecting model airplanes, and traveling.

“The medical school changed my life,” Dr. Bartkowski said. “I am always impressed by the things that the Miller School is doing and wanted to give back to my alma mater.”

To show his appreciation, he and his wife established a generous charitable gift annuity to benefit the Miller School of Medicine’s general fund.

“Dr. and Mrs. Bartkowski’s generosity will help ensure that our students have the opportunity to obtain the best education possible and make their dreams a reality,” said Henri R. Ford, M.D., M.H.A., dean and chief academic officer of the Miller School. “We are tremendously grateful for their support.”