The Keck School of Medicine of USC recently received $20 million from the the Gehr Family Foundation. The gift will be split between doctors at the school, internist David Goldstein and hematologist Casey O’Connell, and will support their research.
The big gift highlights a number of different themes we explore at IP, particularly the fact that many medical gifts are intensely personal. This gift is especially targeted, focusing on two researchers at USC, and the work that they've geen doing. What's the story here?
Well, for starters, it might be useful to know about the Gehrs. The late Norbert Gehr was the founder and CEO of the Gehr Group, a Los Angeles-based multinational organization with interests in international trade, and real estate, among other things. Gehr lived in California for some 56 years, where he attended Santa Ana College and UCLA.
If Gehr didn't attend USC, what explains his large gift to the school?
Two years ago, Gehr was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a form of cancer in the blood cells. His doctors at Keck Medicine of USC were Goldstein, Gehr's longtime physician, and O'Connell. While Gehr unfortunately succumbed to his leukemia earlier this year, he believed strongly in his doctors and the work that they were doing—so much so that his family is supporting them to the tune of $20 million.
We often see these kinds of stories in health giving, in which a donor gets pulled into health research after dealing with a personal health challenge. I've written, for instance, about billionaire Richard Rainwater, and his philanthropy backing neurodegenerative disease research. Rainwater himself suffers from a rare neurodegenerative disease, and has backed a research program to find a cure.
It's worth mentioning that in that Rainwater story, his family has become involved in health research, too, which makes sense: Disease often has an impact on an entire family and engenders an all-hands on deck attitude. Additionally, even when a donor succumbs to disease, his or her family remains committed to finding a cure. This definitely seems to be the case with the Gehrs.
Finally, here are a few more specifics about the kind of research that will be supported by the Gehrs' gift to USC: O’Connell aims to focus on "translational research into blood diseases such as myelodysplastic syndromes, which can lead to leukemia, and AML, the most common adult acute leukemia."
Goldstein's research, meanwhile, "includes practical methods for improving delivery of health care through a team-based, coordinated approach." The gift will also create a new Center for Implementation Science at Keck.