Joan and Werner Samson Endowed Scholarship
With Dr. Samson’s 30 years of dedicated service to the University of Washington School of Medicine, many of them spent in selecting and assisting medical students- and with Mrs. Samson’s service at Harborview- the Samsons understand the importance of scholarship at UW Medicine. By creating the Joan and Werner Samson Endowed Scholarship fund, they hope to make the School’s financial aid packages more competitive with the packages offered by peer institutions, and to continue to attract the best and brightest students. They also hope that the scholarship will allow students considering medical careers- particularly students interested in primary medicine, or in working in underserved areas- to make such choices freely, without worrying about debt.
Werner Samson left his hometown of Hamburg, Germany on a children’s transport to England in order to escape Nazi persecution. He joined his parents in Holland the following year only to be caught by the Nazi onslaught just nine months later. Eventually he, together with others, was deported to the notorious Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
Eighteen months later, some three months after his father died of starvation, he was shipped on a cattle train to the East, which, after two weeks evading advancing Allied troops, was liberated by the Russian army a week before VE day.
After returning to Holland, and then to England, he managed to join his mother and sister, who had left Holland for the U.S. just two weeks before the German invasion, in Seattle. He eventually entered the University of Washington School of Medicine in its fourth class and became the first student cardiology fellow under Dr. Robert A. Bruce, the first chief of cardiology.
Spending a lot of time at Harborview Hospital, he met his future wife, Joan, who, having graduated from the University of Washington, was an working there. Married one week before graduation, Werner spent two years at the University of Rochester before serving two years in the U.S. Air Force Medical Corps in England and then returning to the University of Washington to finish his residency and cardiology fellowship.
He subsequently practiced cardiology in Seattle, becoming a founding member of the Seattle Heart Clinic and after some 38 years he transferred his practice to the University of Washington Medical Center. Even before transferring to the University of Washington, he at all times maintained an affiliation with the medical school which included serving as Chief of Cardiology at Harborview Hospital in the early 1960s.
By the mid-1970s, Dr. Samson became a member of the medical school’s admissions committee, and became its chairman in 1976. His understanding of changing demographics and students’ needs is from personal experience. The cost of medical education has seen a steady increase and deters many individuals from pursuing an M.D. degree. Scholarships are one way to assure that a medical education is available to a diverse population and this was the incentive for Joan and Werner to endow a scholarship.