Investing in the Power of People
OHSU Extra, Summer 2010
At Oregon’s only academic health center, outstanding faculty are hard at work in the ambitious quest to save and improve human lives – and savvy donors are lining up to support them.
Birds of a feather flock together. And when those birds are the nation’s top scientists and health professionals, they often flock to academic health centers because that is where the brightest minds meet, the most advanced medicine is practiced, tomorrow’s experts are trained, and the majority of America’s scientific breakthroughs happen. It is also where donors find unmatched opportunities to improve our world through philanthropy.
“Supporting amazing faculty is like winning the lottery in reverse,” said Stacey Graham, an executive who belongs to a group of women who pool their resources to support OHSU people and programs in women’s health. “You’re getting in on the ground floor, and you know that the return on investment will be huge. As a businesswoman, I love that.”
Why invest in talented faculty?
Individuals with extraordinary vision and abilities are catalysts; their dreams and achievements inspire those around them. As a result, OHSU and all those it serves benefit as new knowledge is created, discoveries and connections are revealed, and fresh opportunities arise.
OHSU recently launched a $100 million fundraising initiative to support these exceptional faculty members and to give them the resources they need to do important work. The effort was designed to emphasize three major areas where support for faculty is critical: people, core resources and programs.
Support for outstanding faculty begins with resources to help retain and recruit the best and brightest. Private investment provides critical endowed positions, research funds, startup packages, graduate student stipends and other resources enabling maximum faculty productivity.
In academia today nothing is more powerful than an endowed chair or professorship to honor accomplished current faculty or to attract exceptional new candidates. A number of recent major gifts have created such endowed positions, including a $2.5 million contribution from the Boyle family (see sidebar, opposite) to create a chair in basic cancer research – and a $1 million gift from an anonymous donor to endow a professorship in pediatric diabetes at OHSU’s Harold Schnitzer Diabetes Health Center, one of the few clinical centers in the West to treat both adult and pediatric patients in a combined clinical setting.
Investment in this area is helping expand and unify key technology resources – including advanced simulation and imaging – to enable the kind of collaboration that will hasten breakthroughs in research, education and clinical care.
A $475,000 grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust to acquire an ultrafast DNA sequencer exemplifies the power and potential of investment in this category. In the past, medical research has focused on developing treatments for the masses, but the clinic of the future will dispense personalized treatments, using DNA analysis to create an individual genomic map of each patient. Acquisition of the next-generation DNA sequencer is the next essential step toward this amazing future. The device is a core resource vital to research in cancer, behavioral neuroscience, cardiology and virtually any other discipline focused on genetic links to disease.
Philanthropic support for programs will expand and enhance multidisciplinary ventures that OHSU is uniquely able to pursue – including basic and clinical aging research, stroke research and treatment, diabetes and metabolism research, and community-based health improvement projects. This category also includes support for the Medical Research Foundation (MRF), an OHSU Foundation-affiliated group dedicated to advancing biomedical research in Oregon.
One key investment in this area is a $100,000 contribution from the T&J Meyer Foundation to advance OHSU’s pioneering research in the detection and causes of age-related brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s and cerebrovascular disease. The gift will support work by Lisa Silbert, M.D., a clinician scientist in the OHSU Layton Aging & Alzheimer Disease Center. Silbert hopes to refine the technology that will allow researchers to identify biomarkers of cognitive and motor impairment using high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI. The aim of the project is to devise novel methods for detecting age-related brain changes, such as decreased blood flow and white matter degeneration, that can lead to cognitive and motor decline. Silbert’s team will also use high-field MRI to look for early indicators of Alzheimer’s disease, with the goal of detecting it early enough to treat its progression. By investigating brain blood flow and related signs of brain tissue degeneration, this study will also generate new insights into the underlying causes of age-related cognitive decline.
Thank you to donors who have already invested more than $26 million to support OHSU faculty as part of this three-year fundraising initiative. For more information, visit www.ohsufoundation.org or contact the OHSU Foundation at 503 228-1730.