You could say that Irene Erie got her husband, Norman, into medical school. It was 1954. They had one small child and another on the way. They had $300 to their name. The timing was not auspicious. Even so, Irene thought he should try. “The application was a prayer,” says Norman Erie, M.D. ’58. “I was amazed when I got in.”

Irene inspired him to apply; then, a scholarship from the UW School of Medicine allowed Erie to attend. “We never would’ve made it without that,” Erie says.

Erie grew up in Montana, and his family didn’t have many resources. He attended the College of Great Falls (now a university) on scholarship, and he worked as an x-ray technician. “It was too high for me to dream to be a doctor at that time,” he says.

As a result, Erie is very grateful to the institutions that helped make his dream a reality, and he recently created the Irene and Norman Erie, M.D., Endowed Scholarship Fund at the UW School of Medicine to support UW medical students from Montana.

Caroline Pihl is a third-year medical student; like Erie, she hails from Montana — in her case, a small town called Pray. Like Erie, she’s interested in opening her own family practice in a community in need of such services. And, like Erie, she’s a scholarship recipient.

“Scholarships mean the world,” Pihl says. “When I think about opening a small primary-care clinic, I think about how every dollar matters. The less debt
I leave medical school with, the fewer barriers I’ll have to building a community-integrated clinic with meaningful programs for my patients.”

Although Erie’s scholarship will take a little while to get up and running, Pihl is just the type of student he hopes to support: dedicated to rural areas and to service. More generally, he’s using his gift — doubled by the Huckabay Family Challenge Match — to settle a debt of gratitude.

“The way I look at it, it’s payback,” says Erie. “I always felt privileged to have gone to the UW School of Medicine because it is such a great medical school.”