Alumna's journey with WSU School of Medicine inspires endowed scholarship

September 19, 2018Drs. Cushing

In the summer of 1965, recently married Barbara and Ralph Cushing loaded up their car and traveled across the country to start their education at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. Transferring from medical school in North Dakota, the young physicians-in-training journeyed into unknown territory together to pursue their dreams of becoming doctors.

"My husband, Ralph Cushing, (M.D. '67), and I met when we entered medical school at the University of North Dakota in the fall of 1963. At that time, the UND School of Medicine was a two-year school, with students transferring to four-year schools to complete their medical school education," Barbara Cushing, M.D. '67, said. "We were married before we entered the WSU class in year three."

As newlyweds embarking on a new medical school experience, Ralph and Barbara adjusted to their new life at WSU. They fell in love with the metropolitan Detroit area and the School of Medicine.

"I had marvelous professors," Dr. Cushing recalled. "The Pediatrics faculty really were spectacular."

Dr. Cushing would later join this group of spectacular professors, as she and her husband decided to stay in Detroit to build their careers as physicians and educators.

"After completing our specialty and subspecialty training – my husband in Internal Medicine and Infectious Disease, myself in Pediatrics and Hematology-Oncology – we both remained on the faculty," Dr. Cushing said. "My husband remained in the Department of Internal Medicine, and when leaving the institution in 1982 to direct a new residency in Internal Medicine at Bon Secours Hospital in Grosse Pointe, had been vice chairman of Internal Medicine and director of the Infectious Disease Division at Detroit Receiving Hospital. For many years he remained on the WSU faculty and made internal medicine rounds one month each year at Detroit Receiving Hospital and continued to participate in weekly Infectious Disease grand rounds."

While Ralph took the path of Internal Medicine and Infectious Disease, Barbara specialized in Pediatrics with a fellowship in Pediatric Hematology-Oncology. She stayed loyal to her medical school alma mater and joined the WSU School of Medicine faculty.

"I remained at Children's Hospital in the division of Hematology-Oncology until my retirement 40 years later. I was a professor of Pediatrics – clinician-educator track. I loved teaching," Dr. Cushing said. "During those years I was involved in patient care; educating medical students, residents and fellows; and in clinical research." She enjoyed every minute of it.

Although she is now retired, Dr. Cushing continues to participate in the WSU School of Medicine as a member of the Institutional Review Board. Until his death, Ralph remained a loyal and active member of the WSU School of Medicine community. Collectively, their time together at the School of Medicine left its mark on the Cushings. Even their daughter, Laurel Cushing, M.D. '01, Infectious Disease Fellowship '06, was inspired by her parents to follow in their footsteps and complete her medical education through Wayne State University.

It was this family dedication — and lifetime careers with the institution — that inspired Dr. Cushing to establish the Ralph and Barbara Cushing Endowed Scholarship in the School of Medicine.

"In the years prior to my husband's death, we had talked frequently about what we should and could do for this institution that has meant so much to us throughout our professional lives. After Ralph's death, this opportunity presented itself, and seemed like an effort we both could embrace," Dr. Cushing said.

Now in its second year, the Ralph and Barbara Cushing Endowed Scholarship has already had an impact. As a previous recipient of financial support, Dr. Cushing understands the feeling.

"Both my husband and I were responsible for the costs of our medical education; we spent many years paying those debts. I have a vivid recollection of how small awards given to us on aspiration or merit meant so much," Dr. Cushing said. "I sense that that is still the case."

Through her endowed scholarship, Dr. Cushing hopes to continue inspiring the future generations of physicians journeying through WSU and into their bright careers in medicine.

To learn more about how to support student advancement through scholarships, contact Patty Paquin in the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs at 313-577-0026 or