UW School of Medicine students Kiera Bulluck and William French are both from rural Montana, and this fact, perhaps more than anything else, has shaped them as people and as future doctors. “It’s made me who I am and provides the framework for how I envision the work of a physician,” says French.
Motivated to help
When lightning struck the parched land near Bulluck’s mother and stepfather’s house in rural Montana, it ignited a wildfire that destroyed 30,000 acres of land and killed 150 of their cattle. It also ignited an outpouring of support from the community.
“Neighbors brought food, water, supplies to fix fences and vehicles to round up cattle,” says Bulluck, a second-year medical student from Lewistown, Montana. She was touched, but not surprised. “When you grow up in a town where most people know and care about you and your family, you get to know and care about other people in return,” she says.
First-year medical student William French, from Hobson, Montana, also grew up with the mindset of helping a neighbor in need. While still an undergraduate, he started a nonprofit called Little Wings after a friend of his had a miscarriage. Now spanning eight states, Little Wings provides families who have experienced pregnancy loss with caskets and other needed services.
French saw an opportunity to help even more people by becoming a doctor. “I began seeing my neighbors and rancher friends with uncontrolled diabetes and other ailments who weren’t able to do the things they loved to do,” he says. “That broke my heart because it’s a community that I love.”
Keeping a promise
Both Bulluck and French have benefited from scholarships from the estate of H. William Arndt, MD ’55 — intended to help students, especially students from Montana, cover medical school costs. A landmark gift of more than nine million dollars, the Arndt Scholarships will provide substantial scholarship funding to Montana WWAMI medical students in perpetuity.
Arndt, who grew up in Whitefish, Montana, was the first person in his family to go to high school. He received some support from family and scholarships, but mostly he paid for college and later medical school by working various jobs — tying flies and working on dams and in train yards.
When Arndt graduated from the UW School of Medicine, he made a promise to give back tenfold in gratitude for the opportunities that his medical education had given him. He kept his promise when he created the H. William Arndt, MD, and Kay M. Arndt Endowed Scholarship Fund.
Correcting an imbalance
Montana WWAMI Program Site Director Martin Teintze, PhD, recognizes there is a serious shortage of physicians across Montana, especially in rural and underserved areas. However, he believes scholarships like the Arndt endowment are a key part of the solution as they help students choose specialties that meet those needs
“We’ve been able to offer scholarships in the past, but never at this level — it’s a game changer,” Teintze says. “We’re really excited that a UW alum who grew up in Montana saw fit to establish a scholarship that’s going to benefit our students and our population for many years to come.”
Bulluck and French have not yet settled on a specialty, but both plan to return to their community or a similar one to practice medicine. “People from rural areas are particularly well equipped to practice rural medicine,” says French. “I think homegrown students are a wonderful way to address the healthcare shortage.”
“This scholarship helps give me peace of mind,” says Bulluck. “So, I can focus on my studies and do all I can to prepare myself for the future.”