Thomas “Tom” DeGregory was contemplating enrolling in a Pennsylvania allopathic medical school when friends suggested he explore osteopathic medical institutions. Then a junior high school music teacher, he was soon enrolled at the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery, now DMU, serving as treasurer of his class with a side job as a pianist at Des Moines’ Captain’s Cabin jazz club.
“I loved being a medical student,” says Tom, D.O.’73, a self-employed practitioner who provides general, geriatric, palliative, hospice and skilled nursing care in his native Greensburg, PA, where he also continues to perform in a seven-piece jazz band.
That love launched a line of family members whom he inspired to follow his footsteps to DMU: His cousin, Larry Plundo, graduated from DMU in 1978; Larry’s twin brother, Gary, did so a year later. Their younger brother, David Plundo, graduated in 1985; David’s wife, Terri, enrolled when he joined the DMU Clinic faculty and graduated in 1992. Last May, Gary’s son, Nicholas, became the sixth Plundo family member to earn his D.O. degree at DMU.
“After time goes by, you realize the only way you have the kind of life you have is because of Des Moines University,” says David, D.O.’85, M.P.H.’11, FACOFP, FAODME, associate dean of medical education and external affairs in DMU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine (COM) and the 2014 COM Alumnus of the Year.
David and Terri, now DMU Clinic medical director, were motivated by that gratitude and their awareness of the high debt load among medical students to create the Plundo Family Scholarship. It assists fourth-year COM students in good academic standing. After Gary and, later, Tom became donors to the fund, it was renamed the Plundo/DeGregory Family Endowed Scholarship Fund. Being “endowed” means the principal of the fund generates an income that both benefits students and allows the fund to grow into perpetuity.
“By coming together as a family with our gifts to the University, we can have a greater impact,” David says.
The family members span major events in the University’s history, including three name changes (College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery, University of Osteopathic Medicine and Health Sciences and DMU). Tom spent all but the last semester of his student days on the former campus on Sixth Avenue, downtown Des Moines. Larry and Gary attended in the relatively early years of its current location on Grand Avenue in the former St. Joseph’s Academy. David and his classmates, on their first day in class, “ripped the plastic off the new seats” in the two then-brand-new lecture halls in the Academic Center.
The family members enthusiastically share their perspectives on the University with fellow graduates.
“The University is state-of-the-art now,” says Gary, D.O.’79, M.P.M., FACOFP. Vice president of medical affairs for Genesis HealthCare, the largest nursing home chain in the nation, and a member of the DMU Alumni Association Board of Directors, the Sacramento, CA, resident is proud to promote the University to colleagues and prospective medical students as well as to other alumni. That pride only grew when he got to hood son Nicholas at DMU’s 2014 Commencement.
“That was absolutely wonderful – words can’t really describe it,” he says.
The Plundo/DeGregory Family Endowed Scholarship is a way for its donors to “leave a little bit of a legacy at the school that’s helped us” and to allow students going forward to have “even better opportunities than we had,” says Terri, D.O.’92, FACOFP. “Plus they may be taking care of us someday.”