When the late John E. Borowy, M.D., enrolled in the School of Medicine in 1946 after serving in World War II, he had few financial resources to fall back on. According to Borowy’s nephew, Louis “Skip” DeBeradinis, his uncle’s working-class parents were elderly and infirm, and Borowy relied on the GI Bill and income from odd jobs to make his way through medical school.
Borowy, a revered “country doctor” in his hometown of Stamford, Conn., for 45 years, recalled his days as a member of the School of Medicine’s Class of 1950 with affection and gratitude, says DeBeradinis. Borowy, who died in February 2006, had no children. He left virtually his entire estate to the medical school to endow a $2.4 million scholarship fund, a legacy that will benefit deserving medical students for years to come.
“I am so grateful to John Borowy and his nephew, Louis DeBeradinis,” says Robert J. Alpern, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine. “Dr. Borowy’s appreciation for his Yale education and the commitment of his estate to scholarships for our students was an unusually thoughtful way for him to say thanks. Over many years it will help many students acquire a Yale medical education.”
Born in Stamford in 1921, Borowy entered the University of Connecticut in 1938. War was on the horizon, and he joined the Army Air Corps Reserve while in college, graduating in 1942 with a B.S. degree and a second lieutenant’s commission.
Almost immediately, Borowy was deployed to the European Theatre, followed by a stint in the North African Campaign. He rose to the rank of captain, and eventually was placed in charge of communications on Ascension Island in the South Atlantic Ocean, then a major way station for coded military messages sent between Europe, Africa and the United States. The island was also a refueling stop for planes returning from Europe and Africa, and DeBeradinis says that Borowy’s encounters with wounded soldiers on the island were instrumental in his decision to attend medical school.
When settling Borowy’s estate, DeBeradinis was surprised to thumb through his uncle’s medical school thesis, which described a novel method of measuring blood pressure; the pen-and-ink wiring diagrams and meticulously plotted graphs on the yellowing pages (see photo) reveal a technically inclined side of Borowy that his nephew had never known. “He was never really a handy guy when it came to doing anything around the house,” DeBeradinis, president of National Meter Industries in Bedford, N.H., recalls with a chuckle. “I used to go over to change light bulbs for him.”
But Borowy was “a brilliant, brilliant man,” DeBeradinis hastens to add. An avid amateur historian with a special interest in military history who “could recite dates, times and places of all these events that changed history,” Borowy had a library of more than 800 books, which DeBeradinis has donated to the Ferguson Library in Stamford.
When Borowy opened his practice in 1954 specializing in pulmonary medicine, Stamford had a far more rural character than it does today, and DeBeradinis says that his uncle’s practice retained an old-fashioned flavor—his ledgers show payments in the form of apple pies. “He was very caring, very considerate and concerned for his patients, and gave a lot more than just medical care,” says DeBeradinis. “He would make house calls when patients were too sick to come to his office, and he did that right up until he retired from practice in 1999.”
After retiring, Borowy continued to visit former patients and volunteered at Stamford Hospital and at the VA Connecticut West Haven Healthcare System, where he had been a resident for two years in the mid-1950s.
“Everyone knew him as a simple and unpretentious but caring, experienced, qualified physician who was respected by his patients” says Frank R. Coughlin Jr., M.D., a member of the medical school’s Class of 1952 who frequently worked with Borowy in his chest surgery practice in Stamford. “The generosity of this gift was a surprise, and a very pleasant one.”
DeBeradinis says that his uncle’s belief in the importance of good doctoring only grew when his own health began to fail several years ago and he found himself on the other end of the stethoscope.
Of Borowy’s bequest, DeBeradinis says that it was his uncle’s belief that students with the potential to become skilled and caring doctors should never be held back by financial need. “This was his way of giving back to the community.”