A biologically engineered drug saved Randi Fett’s life 14 years ago. “I was very lucky,” says Randi, who fully recovered. “I now feel a deep obligation to give back.”
Randi and Dr. David Fett ’77 recently established a graduate fellowship in medical engineering within MIT’s department of electrical engineering and computer science. “To develop a new product or technology to improve people’s lives — whether it’s a prosthetic hip or a new medication — is for the public good and is a great way to help other human beings,” Dr. Fett says.
An ophthalmologist, Dr. Fett earned an MIT bachelor’s degree in applied biology and a master’s degree in toxicology in 1977. He earned an MD from Dartmouth Medical School in 1980. Then, he began an internship at the University of California, San Francisco, and did a residency at the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1984, he held a fellowship in ophthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgery at the University of Illinois. He is now an assistant clinical professor at the UCLA School of Medicine and the Jules Stein Eye Institute and has been in private practice in Los Angeles for the past 25 years.
“I’d go to MIT again five times, if I had the opportunity,” he says. “The Institute helped to develop me as a scientist and a person. It opened my mind; I learned how to think, and how to share information. I really feel an ethical obligation to give back.”
Dr. Fett says he decided to become a doctor not long after he was playing baseball on a day when he was 10. “I remember somebody threw a ball. I was just about to catch it, and had the glove in front of my face. At the last minute, I pulled the glove out and the ball struck me in the eye, causing a retinal injury,” says Dr. Fett, who completely recovered.
Randi, who holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from UCLA and an MBA in finance from USC, says: “Although I did not attend MIT, I really wanted to make this gift. MIT has access to the best students and teachers, creates amazing new technologies, and is a worldwide leader. Also, MIT shares its courses online; to make this information available to anybody who wants it, instead of hoarding it, is incredibly compelling. We wanted to support the Institute.”
The couple adds that their hope for the gift is that it will inspire a grad student to accomplish great things. And, Dr. Fett says, “we hope it will inspire them to one day give back to others.”