Foundations form historic fund to support the work of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center

The Robert W. Woodruff Foundation Inc., the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation and the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation, long-time friends of Emory, have established the Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Fund Inc., which will provide at least $3 million a year to the Woodruff Health Sciences Center. Half of the annual income will support programs of the Winship Cancer Center, with $1.8 earmarked for the year beginning this fall.

The foundations jointly designated a portion of their Coca-Cola stock to be set aside in order to establish this new corporation. All dividend earnings will go to the Woodruff Health Sciences Center. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the value of this stock, as of Aug. 9, was $295 million.

"This extraordinary initiative on the part of the foundations continues the philanthropic legacy of Robert W. Woodruff and the Whitehead family," said President Bill Chace. "It recognizes the many achievements of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center and will give the Center an increased level of strength to build upon its internationally known programs. It is a tribute to Dr. Charles R. Hatcher, who recently stepped down as Vice President for Health Affairs, and his predecessors, whose leadership has molded the Woodruff Health Sciences Center into an institution of distinction. And it is an affirmation of the new leadership of Dr. Michael M. E. Johns, the Executive Vice President and Director of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center, who will take it into a new era of advancement."

"This is a great moment for Emory," said BIllFox, Vice President for Institutional Advancement. "The new fund will provide wonderful support for the important work of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center and will strengthen the University's efforts to expand the mission of the biomedical sciences. It is also gratifying to see the confidence the trustees of the foundations have placed in the current leadership of the University."

Johns calls the initiative "an extraordinary commitment by some extraordinarily foresighted people, a gift to Atlanta as much as to Emory. It reaffirms the Woodruff Health Sciences Center's commitment to move to the leading tier of academic health sciences centers in the nation. As we do that, and we become recognized worldwide as a leader in patient care, in public health and in research, the city, not to mention the state and the region, will benefit each step of the way. Having been given much, we are going to give back even more, to Atlanta and to the future of medicine and health care."

Charged with creating a plan each year for how to use the income to maximum effect, for now and the long term, Johns has already brought together an advisory committee made up of the leadership of the Health Sciences Center and asked for their recommendations. Those recommendations are then to be put forward for final approval by President Chace, who in turn presents them to the five directors of the newly formed corporation.

The annual income from the new fund will supplement the $116.8 million in research awards the Health Sciences Center received last year and more than $30 million in gifts it expects to receive from alumni and foundations this fiscal year. Johns believes the real significance of the new fund lies in the continued flexibility it will give the Woodruff Health Sciences Center, now and in the future, as the fund is expected to grow along with The Coca-Cola Company. "It will help assure us a `margin of excellence,' one that will allow us to take advantage of opportunities and to pursue novel programs that can enrich our educational, research and health care mission."

Such a margin has never been needed more, he added, because academic health sciences centers are facing unprecedented challenges. Even though Woodruff Health Sciences researchers continue to show double-digit increases in funding, research dollars are increasingly scarce at the federal level and don't fund all the Center's work. "It's ironic," Johns said, "that available research dollars are going down at the same time our scientists have in their grasp the information and tools to make ever-more significant discoveries related to health and disease.

"It's also ironic that the changing health care environment places new obstacles and pressures on our ability to quickly move research to the bedside at the same time that our discoveries are revolutionizing the kind of care we can give. The Woodruff Health Sciences Center is poised for leadership in a whole new era of discovery and health care. We are grateful for the Woodruff foundation's support. This money, well-deployed, will have an impact far beyond its dollar value."

--Sylvia Wrobel

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