Physician believes in paying it forward, sets up scholarship for medical students

Growing up in Chicago, Dr. James Loewenherz spent his entire childhood around water-- quarries, rivers, and lakes. By age 12, he was sailing across Lake Michigan. "The only place I couldn't go safely is underwater, and I wanted that freedom." Scuba diving provided that freedom and, eventually, his entry into the world of hyperbaric medicine, also known as Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy.

Dr. Loewenherz, an expert in hyperbaric medicine, recently gave a group of FIU medical students a tour of the hyperbaric chamber at Mariners Hospital in Tavernier. Better known for treating decompression sickness in divers, these pressurized oxygen chambers can also treat various health conditions, including carbon monoxide poisoning and diabetic ulcers.

In addition to serving as a hyperbaric consult physician, Loewenherz is chief of nephrology at South Miami Hospital and a critical care physician at Baptist Health South Florida's Tele-ICU. He also finds time to be a voluntary faculty member at the FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, insisting that "part of the medical oath is that you will be teaching those who come after you."

But teaching was not enough. Loewenherz felt he could and should do more. And his wife, Esta Orovitz, a licensed clinical social worker at Baptist Health, agreed. "We decided rather than leaving money to any entity, we wanted to see our money in action with real people and see how transformational it could be," he said. So, the couple established the James W. Loewenherz, M.D., and Family Scholarship.

"Debt is a terrible thing. I’ve seen students graduating with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of debt. That's like a 20-year indenture. That's not right."

The Loewenherzes on a recent visit to FIU with College of Medicine Interim Dean Dr. Juan Cendan and Dr. Yolangel Hernandez Suarez, interim executive associate dean for Student Affairs.

Starting with the incoming Class of 2026, they will award one full-tuition scholarship every year for the next six years to a deserving first-year medical student. Recipients must be Florida residents and will be chosen based on financial need and hardship, academic performance, leadership skills, and commitment to becoming a physician.

The Lowenherzes' goal is that their scholarship helps budding doctors concentrate on studying, healing, and saving lives without worrying about paying off a massive loan. And that hopefully, scholarship recipients will one day also heed the pledge of the Hippocratic Oath to share their knowledge. And pay it forward.