Interprofessional education gains support with $2.27 million commitment to scholarships

Northeast Ohio’s Bonacker and Warburton families exemplify the spirit of interprofessional health care. Now, their foundation will advance a similar spirit in education.

Last week at a panel discussion featuring health sciences deans and students, President Barbara R. Snyder announced a $2.27 million commitment from the Ralph T. and Esther L. Warburton Foundation to support scholarships for students in medicine, dental medicine, and nursing. This award joins an earlier grant of more than $700,000, putting the family foundation’s total commitment to health sciences scholarships at $3 million.

“You are allowing our students to live their dreams,” President Snyder told the foundation’s leaders, Sally Bonacker Warburton and Phillip Warburton.

The award became possible in part because experiences at Case Western Reserve University helped the parents of Sally and Phillip achieve their own aspirations. Phillip’s father, Ralph Warburton, graduated from Case Western Reserve’s medical school in 1933, while Sally’s dad, Herbert Bonacker, earned his degree in dental medicine the same year. Each one went on to marry a graduate of the Mt. Sinai School of Nursing, at the time an affiliate of the university.

Herbert’s wife, Elisabeth Schiltz, first spent time as a United Airlines’ flight attendant (at the time, all of these women were required to be nurses to work on the eight-passenger planes) before her engagement to Herbert brought her back to Cleveland. Ralph, meanwhile, wed Esther Lewis, and the two set up practice in his hometown of North Canton. At first, Esther’s nursing role included dialing the office phone to help make the place appear busy to the practice’s initial patients. But before long, the calls came flooding in on their own. By the time Ralph retired, nearly 5,000 people gathered to thank him for the care and comfort he provided.

The families’ shared commitment to the fields of dental medicine, medicine and nursing made Case Western Reserve’s health sciences students a natural fit for their philanthropy. In addition to the existing medical school gift for the Ralph T. and Esther L. Warburton Scholarship Fund, this commitment also creates the Bonacker-Warburton Interprofessional Scholarship in Dental Medicine and the Lewis-Schiltz Interprofessional Scholarship in Nursing. The scholarships are designated for students who are residents of Stark and Summit counties.

The announcement came as part of a larger session designed to give attendees a deeper understanding of interprofessional education and how Case Western Reserve and Cleveland Clinic will advance such preparation in their new Health Education Campus. President Snyder and Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove have emphasized that the project will offer state-of-the-art teaching, technology and more.

“Health care is a team sport,” President Snyder said. “For health care workers to work well together, they need to learn together. They need to take classes together, study together, eat and ‘hang out’ with each other.”

The foundation’s award marks the second multimillion-dollar commitment for interprofessional education in the past month. In May, the KeyBank Foundation announced a $2 million grant to Case Western Reserve and Cleveland Clinic. Half of the amount goes to the university to support the work of the Student-Run Free Clinic, while the other goes to the hospital to renew and grow KeyBank Minority Medical Student Fellowship at the Lerner College of Medicine, a track within the university’s School of Medicine.