Philanthropy for Science
Is It a Viable Option?
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Philanthropy is frequently viewed as an alternative way for supporting innovative research, but how to ideally approach this in Academic Medical Centers is rarely discussed. There are several ethical principles that should be adhered to, while recognizing that philanthropy should also be regarded as a partnership between donors and physician-scientists. Training of physician leaders, incorporating the institution’s development officers will allow philanthropy to fill potential funding gaps and successfully be used to support promising research in an ethical manner.
The past decade has seen a substantial fall in medical research funding from government resources and international outsourcing of clinical research, creating a difficult environment for US medical schools and Academic Medical Centers. Although some of the increased competitiveness to obtain National Institutes of Health funding was driven by a substantial growth in funding during the 1990s, it was later corrected by reduced funding and sequestration, leading to an unprecedented low funding rate for grants after the recession in 2008. It has been estimated that there has been a crippling 20% reduction in National Institutes of Health funding since 2004, with a minor recent uptick.1 This reduction has led to a risk-averse funding environment where truly innovative projects or investigators get triaged and overlooked in the review process. Therefore, it has become attractive for Academic Medical Centers to seek alternative methods of support for innovative projects.
It has been estimated that in 2009 $4.8 billion was donated through philanthropic support to US Academic Medical Centers, healthcare systems, or community hospitals, making this an attractive source for funding projects and scientists.2 However, although this process is vastly different from competitive grant writing, it requires similar rigor of attention to detail, strategic thinking and planning, infrastructure and due process, which is rarely discussed in the medical literature.
What Is Philanthropy?
The word philanthropy …