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, 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.
In order to escape Nazi persecution, Werner Samson left his hometown of Hamburg, Germany, on a children’s transport to England. He joined his parents in Holland the following year, only to be caught by the Nazi onslaught nine months later. Eventually Dr. Samson was deported to the notorious concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen. Eighteen months later, some three months after his father died of starvation, he was shipped on a cattle train to the East. After two weeks evading advancing Allied troops, the train and its passengers were liberated by the Russian army a week before VE day.
After returning to Holland and then to England, Dr. Samson managed to join his mother and sister in Seattle; they had left Holland for the U.S. just two weeks before the German invasion. He joined the fourth class of the University of Washington School of Medicine and became the first student cardiology fellow under Dr. Robert A. Bruce, the first chief of cardiology.
Dr. Samson spent a lot of time at Harborview Hospital, and it was there that he met his future wife, Joan. Joan had graduated from the University of Washington, and she was working at Harborview as an electro-encephalogram technician. 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 — as a result, he understands how students’ demographics and needs have changed over the years. The cost of medical education has steadily risen and it 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 create an endowed scholarship.