Behind the Flinn Foundation’s Million-Dollar Hospital Gift

Arizona’s Flinn Foundation is known as a huge bioscience funder dedicated to the state of Arizona. But the Flinn Foundation’s latest big hospital grant had a different kind of objective: developing scientists rather than science.

Flinn recently announced a $1 million gift to Phoenix’s St. Joseph Hospital and Medical Center to establish a cardiology fellowship program. This was an anniversary gift to honor the late Dr. Robert S. Flinn and the foundation’s 50th year of grantmaking.

Cardiology is a cause closely linked to the Flinn Foundation, as Dr. Flinn, who died in 1984, was one of the most influential cardiologists of his time. He was also affiliated with St. Joseph’s for about five decades and held quite a few leadership positions here. The foundation’s very first grant, in 1965, went toward cardiac arrest carts and EKG units at St. Joseph’s.

However, this latest million dollars won’t be funding equipment, but rather fellowships to support new physicians training in interventional cardiology and who are undertaking a research project. Just two new fellows will be selected, and the program will launch sometime next year.

“In this very special year for the Flinn Foundation, we wanted to honor the legacy and vision of Robert and Irene Flinn by giving back to the hospital where Dr. Flinn built his reputation for excellence and leadership as a physician,” said Flinn Foundation President & CEO Jack B. Jewett in a press release. “But this is also a time to look ahead, and this gift for medical education and research is one that addresses Arizona’s long-term needs, and one that would make Dr. and Mrs. Flinn very proud.”

But there’s been no indication that Flinn’s grantmaking will expand to more hospital giving in the foreseeable future. Back in 2001, the funder narrowed its health focus to biosciences, so it looks like this might be just a one-off anniversary gift.

As we pointed out in Bioscience Funding in Arizona: What’s All the Buzz About?, there are six main segments of biosciences in the state:

  • Agricultural feedstock and chemicals
  • Drugs, pharmaceuticals, and diagnostics
  • Research, testing, and medical labs
  • Medical devices and equipment
  • Hospitals
  • Bioscience-related distribution

Hospital giving may be limited, but scholarship/fellowship-type support has been constant at Flinn. The Flinn Scholars Program offers merit-based undergraduate scholarships to 20 Arizona high school seniors each year to attend a state public university. This scholarship program has been around for over 30 years and covers tuition, fees, room and board, international seminars, travel experiences, faculty mentorship, a leadership internship program, and other opportunities. However, this scholarship program is pretty general and doesn’t have a medical/health angle.

Recent leadership changes pose opportunities for change and growth as the needs of Arizona residents evolve. Earlier this summer, Executive Vice President Cathy McGonigle retired after five years at the head of the Flinn Foundation, and two other internal staff moves were made to fill the gaps. Brad Halvorsen stepped into the executive VP role, and Matt Ellsworth filled Halvorsen’s role as VP of communications. To pick up where Ellsworth left off, Anne Larsen was hired to lead the Flinn Scholars Program.

There aren’t any published or clear-cut guidelines to apply for a Flinn grant, but you can learn more about the biosciences program on the foundation website and reach out to the bioscience team at bioscience@flinn.org or by phone at 602-744-6831.