October 31, 2008

Gift enhances clinical endocrinology training

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Eric Neilson, M.D., left, with Lawrence Wolfe, M.D., and his wife, Sarah Wolfe. The couple recently endowed a fellowship to support recruitment and training in clinical endocrinology. (photo by Tommy Lawson)

Gift enhances clinical endocrinology training

In celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary, Lawrence Wolfe, M.D., and Sarah Wolfe have endowed the Lawrence K. and Sarah Z. Wolfe Fellowship in Endocrinology.

The fellowship will support the recruitment and training of physicians who are pursuing clinical endocrinology in the Department of Medicine.

Wolfe — who graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1957 and received his medical degree from Vanderbilt Medical School in 1960 — was the first board certified clinical endocrinologist in private practice in Nashville.

He retired from private practice in 2001 and now serves as a clinical professor at VUSM, seeing patients and teaching students, residents and fellows in the Vanderbilt Eskind Diabetes Center.

Sarah “Sally” Wolfe has served as a community leader for many years in a variety of organizations including Senior Citizens Inc., Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee and the National Council of Jewish Women, Nashville Section. In addition, she created “Art as a Healing Art” through Vanderbilt Medical Center and supported her husband while he was on the board, and then president of, the VUSM Alumni Association.

As their anniversary approached, the couple decided to mark it with a significant financial contribution to Vanderbilt Medical Center.

“Vanderbilt has been our home away from home,” Sarah Wolfe said. “We have always felt comfortable here and had a warm and special relationship.”

“There is no finer tribute than to receive an endowment gift from faculty and their families,” said Eric Neilson, M.D., chair of the Department of Medicine.

“There is deep meaning in the financial support of a passion, and Larry and Sally have found theirs in a gift that will keep on giving. We are humbled by their generosity.”

The fellowship will combine Wolfe's love of teaching and the practice of clinical endocrinology.

“In my prior practice, I always had students or residents rotating through the office. Teaching is still my major interest today and one of my great joys in life,” Wolfe said.

“I've seen many outstanding residents who wanted to stay at Vanderbilt but couldn't because there's no program for clinical endocrinology. It's a shame to lose these bright, young people.”

Steve Davis, M.D., chief of the Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism, said this endowment meets a critical need for clinical endocrinologists.

“This is a very thoughtful and targeted gift, and Larry and Sally have identified and addressed a real need. There is a shortage of clinical endocrinologists in the United States, and this comes in the face of an epidemic of diabetes and obesity.

“This fellowship will allow Vanderbilt to train even more clinical endocrinologists to meet the public health needs in the 21st century and beyond. It is a truly transformative gift,” Davis said.

In keeping with Sarah Wolfe's volunteer work, fellows are required to spend at least six months serving underserved populations.

The Wolfe children, Lynne Wolfe and Kevin Wolfe, will serve on the Fellowship Search Committee.

“The nicest thing was in discussing the possibility of this fellowship with our children, both were very enthusiastic,” Sarah Wolfe said. “They wanted this fellow to have the opportunity that Larry has had to have their endocrine training at Vanderbilt and to be able to practice clinical endocrinology, for which there is a severe shortage in our country.”

“We hope that this gift will serve as a stimulus for others who have trained at Vanderbilt to feel the same obligation as we do, which is to support the institution that gave them the tools to practice,” Wolfe said.

“We owe a lot to Vanderbilt and this is our way to give back.”