The Cummins family

Living the Simple Life

Alum Launches Scholarship for Northern Michigan Students

By MargaretAnn Cross
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In 2015 Curtis Cummins (M.D. 1995) had a chance encounter with medical student Kaitlyn Patterson, a Cadillac, Michigan, native, during a community bike ride. Their discussion centered on her experiences in Ann Arbor, says Cummins, a Traverse City psychiatrist and addiction medicine specialist. “She is the recipient of a generous scholarship from a northern Michigan obstetrician/gynecologist, which is really making a difference for her, and she sincerely expressed her gratitude for the support. It struck me: This is what I am looking to do — make that kind of an impact.”

Cummins and his wife, Paula Colombo (M.D. 1995), also a psychiatrist, have chosen to live a life exemplified by resisting unnecessary consumption, aggressively saving for their children's education and their own retirement, and focusing on relationships and life experiences. Inspired by Patterson's story and others like it, Cummins recently established the Northern Michigan Medical School Endowed Scholarship at U-M, which will provide fully funded two-year scholarships to students from northern Michigan with financial need. In-state tuition at the Medical School is approximately $33,000 a year, and medical school debt for 2017 U-M graduates, including both in-state and out-of-state students, was $141,191.

Cummins is inviting other alumni and friends of the university to contribute as well. He believes that enabling prospective in-state students to pursue their education at U-M, which is competing with other elite medical schools for the best and brightest, is crucial. Financial assistance often is a deciding factor for students already carrying educational debt into medical school, he says.

“This is one of the things I had wanted to do, in my life,” Cummins says. “Meeting Kaitlyn prompted me to think of it sooner rather than later. Why wait, when I can make an impact now?”

Cummins and Colombo, who met in Medical School and have two sons, practice with Northern Lakes Community Mental Health and Munson Medical Center in Traverse City. “It is a slice of heaven up here,” Cummins says. “We settled here because it is a great community, with access to the region's natural resources, an emerging local food movement and solid public schools. We simply love it.”

The northern section of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula supports a rural but growing health care system that is actively recruiting primary care practitioners and specialists. If the scholarships support students who choose to return to northern Michigan to practice, that would be another community benefit, Cummins says.

“We’re very grateful for this generous support, which will play a critical role in helping us recruit bright and promising students from the northern part of our state,” says Carol R. Bradford, M.D., executive vice dean for academic affairs and the Charles J. Krause, M.D., Collegiate Professor of Otolaryngology. “The fact that Curt’s partnership extends to engaging other alumni in this mission is especially meaningful. This effort will enable students to pursue their passions and contribute to making our Medical School all that it can be.”