Linda D. Railsback

Des Moines, Iowa

Linda D. Railsback (1974 M.D., 1978 R.) doesn’t do anything halfway. Whether she’s working for Doctors of the World in a developing country or contributing to her alma mater, the Phillips, Texas, native gives of herself wholeheartedly.

It’s no surprise, then, that Railsback made—for two years in a row—the largest-ever online gifts in the history of The University of Iowa Foundation for the new P. Sue Beckwith, M.D., Boathouse.

“It has been my privilege to make these gifts. I can, and therefore, I should—and it absolutely needed to be done,” says Railsback. “It’s not acceptable to have such inadequate facilities for the University’s second-largest athletic team.”

This passion on behalf of the Iowa women’s rowing team, as well as a connection with P. Sue Beckwith (1980 B.S., 1984 M.D.)—who made a naming gift of $1 million for the boathouse, and whom Railsback knows personally and professionally—is what inspired Railsback to make a total gift of $90,000 for the project in 2008, in honor of the team’s nine graduating seniors, and a contribution of $80,000 in 2009 for the team’s eight graduating seniors.

Though the new Presidents Club member has been contributing to various UI initiatives since 1979, Railsback says that this investment was different: “These gifts represented the first time that I felt truly connected to my alma mater. I’m not sure why it’s different; I just know that I feel connected in a way I never did before.”

Railsback has devoted her life to connecting with others through medicine. By the age of six, she knew she wanted to be a doctor. Through hard work and dedication, she brought that dream to life, in spite of the many challenges facing women entering the male-dominated world of medicine in the 1970s.

“Some of the negative experiences I had during that time made medical school a struggle for me,” she says. “Those memories have fueled my desire to continue working on behalf of women, whether I’m treating their medical needs or making a financial contribution.”

After completing her UI residency in obstetrics and gynecology, Railsback spent years in private practice in Des Moines, until “reconfiguring” her life in 1993 and retiring from her practice to work with a variety of humanitarian organizations, including Doctors of the World. She now spends several months of each year traveling with different aid groups to places such as Kosovo, Panama, and Cameroon.

“We provide education, equipment, and information. We do what we can, but it’s not always enough. In just one night in Kosovo in 1997, we lost six premature babies because there was no oxygen for the incubators. We deal with things that just rip your heart out,” Railsback says.

Though she spends months away from home, Railsback also invests in her local community. She works with underserved populations in the Des Moines area and runs four different projects for Planned Parenthood—and her generous UI giving is an extension of this community-minded commitment.

“I just feel like the boathouse project is such an important initiative. The nobility of effort and the dedication that these student-athletes exhibit in their work, both on and off the water, inspired me to do my part.” And without a doubt, this same level of purpose and dedication defines Linda Railsback’s good works as well.

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