Don and Joan Harrold

Don Harrold and Joan Kay Harrold, M.D., decided to give back to the MCV Campus through a bequest that will support student scholarships at the VCU School of Medicine. Photo: KV Knight Photography

Easing the Burdens of a World-Class Education

The cost of becoming a physician often comes with a heavy burden of debt.

The VCU School of Medicine Class of 2022 graduated 203 doctors, and three-fourths of the alums left with an average debt of $196,653.  A 2019 report from the Association of American Medical Colleges found that the average median debt for medical students was $200,000.

Simply put, medical school has become increasingly expensive, and that poses a real barrier to attracting the best and brightest students to study medicine.

“Proportionally, it costs a lot more now than it did when I went to medical school,” said Joan Kay Harrold, M.D., who graduated from the School of Medicine Class in 1989.

Dr. Harrold and her husband Don Harrold both recognize that educational debt can often loom over future physicians.

“We want people to go into medicine,” they said. “We also want them to be relieved of the debt it takes so they can serve others and give back over their career in medicine.”

The couple became engaged in Dr. Harrold’s second year as a medical student. Shortly after, Don was diagnosed with cancer.

“MCV took care of me, and they took care of her,” Don said. “She has a personal link, and I have an emotional link.”

Their experiences with the MCV Campus strengthened the desire to create a legacy gift to support the School of Medicine by providing a bequest in their estate plans that will support the school’s 1838 Scholarship Fund.

“We still have children at an age when it is helpful to use our assets for them right now, so it made sense to include this bequest in our will,” said Dr. Harrold. “The process was exceptionally easy.”

The Harrolds also shared their plans with their three adult children and felt it was tied directly to other lessons they taught them about economics, education, philanthropy and serving others.

“We aren’t looking to name a building or get accolades,” Dr. Harrold said. “We are just looking to perpetuate this kind of giving and ease the burden for student doctors.”

If you are interested in learning how to make a planned gift to support the MCV Campus, please contact Ann Deppman, assistant vice president for gift planning at VCU or visit