Allison Sesso Presents 2023 Mary Frosch Lecture for Equity and Justice
President and CEO of RIP Medical Debt Allison Sesso sees real possibility in a mission most see as impossible: abolishing all medical debt. As the presenter of this year’s Mary Frosch Lecture for Equity and Justice, Sesso gave a deeply informative presentation to Upper School students, sharing the accomplishments and the challenges of her work. The nonprofit organization has already eliminated more than $7 million in medical debt, impacting over 4 million families in communities that are affected most.
Sesso painted a comprehensive picture for the urgent need to eliminate medical debt—how it disproportionately affects people of color, prevents financial stability and greatly undermines people’s mental health and overall well-being. “RIP is an economic and social intervention, and it’s a way to support people in both ways,” Sesso shared with students, highlighting that the first costs families burdened by medical debt cut down on are necessities like food and housing.
RIP buys and relieves large portfolios of medical debt from health care providers and from the secondary debt market at a fraction of the original cost, which allows them to relieve thousands of people’s debts at once. Through RIP, a $1 donation can forgive $100 in medical debt.
Upper School students posed a series of questions to gain a deeper understanding of the medical debt system and the inherently anonymous model RIP uses for recipients. They were also intrigued by the student leadership opportunities and partnerships that were highlighted in Sesso’s presentation.
“We see ourselves as a moral force for systemic change,” Sesso told the students. Unlike student loans or mortgages, Sesso emphasized that medical debt is almost never incurred by choice, but by need. “We do this work to create a platform to talk about this problem, and to push forward a narrative to create bigger change around it.”
Established by the Board of Trustees upon her retirement in 2015, the Mary Frosch Lecture for Equity and Justice brings in an annual speaker and salutes Mary’s deep and enduring dedication to equity throughout her more than 30 years of teaching at Spence. Past speakers have included Jane Kim, Stanley Nelson, Marcia Smith and Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes '95.