Pivotal Moments Campaign to advance medical research

June 01, 2015

Pivotal Moments: Our Campaign for Wayne State University is an opportunity to celebrate the moments that have defined our history and help to create new ones for our students, our university, our city and the world. Funds raised during the campaign will provide immediate resources to support students, faculty and research, with an additional goal of securing future pivotal moments through permanent endowment funding. The primary areas of support for the School of Medicine during the campaign involve concentrations of strategic importance, including:

* Student success and achievement
* Academic excellence and faculty advancement
* Research innovation and discovery
* Community health and wellness

Each priority area has associated fundraising initiatives that will advance the school’s academic, research and clinical endeavors to improve the health of our communities.

Spotlight on Research Innovation and Discovery

Participation in the research enterprise at the School of Medicine is full of pivotal moments. Whether proving hypotheses or developing new technologies and treatment protocols, for generations the school has been a birthplace of new knowledge focused on advancing human health and society while reducing health disparities and advancing our understanding of science and biological functions. Wayne State University investigators have a legacy of discovery with breakthroughs in diverse scientific and clinical areas, including the first successful open-heart surgery using a heart-lung machine, the creation of the first effective drug in the fight against AIDS and the development of the MCF-7 human breast cancer cell line. These achievements and more helped make the school home to the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s Perinatology Research Branch. This 10-year contract, won twice through competitive bid, is valued at $165.9 million, making it the largest research contract held by the university. Since opening its doors in Detroit in 2003, the PRB has assisted more than 20,000 at-risk mothers and their infants.

Maintaining diverse and extensive research activity has earned Wayne State University the Carnegie Foundation classification of RU/VH (research university/very high research activity), a distinction held by only six public, urban universities. The university also holds Carnegie’s most comprehensive classification for community engagement. Yet, in spite of these successes, the future of research is in jeopardy. The federal investment that once served as the foundation for major advancements in the biomedical health sciences is diminishing, weakening the school’s ability to be responsive to new discoveries or advancing leads that our scientists pursue. This financial instability represents a critical hurdle to the ongoing and future success of our research enterprise, as well as to providing high-quality medical care, which is why raising funds to support research is a high priority of the Pivotal Moments campaign.

According to the Institute of Medicine, it takes approximately 17 years – and millions and sometimes billions of dollars -- to bring a new best practice from the lab to the clinic. Fundraising priorities for the School of Medicine associated with furthering research includes, seed funding, outright and endowed research funds to advance current investigations, support junior faculty development and secure new equipment, facilities and technology. Some visionary community members have already begun making the necessary investment, like the $1 million gift to establish an endowed fund for ovarian cancer research, prevention and treatment. Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. New and impactful interventions are needed. Another example is the $1 million gift that established an endowed fund to support research in the Department of Neurology. That gift could one day lead to the development of cures for illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

Since the campaign’s launch, the School of Medicine has raised more than $65 million from philanthropic sources outside of competitive grants to support the research enterprise. Approximately 7 percent of those funds are endowed. A gift to the endowment at Wayne State University is an investment in the future. The endowment is carefully managed, and donors who invest have a long-term impact on the life of the university. While the principal is never spent, endowed funds continue to grow in value over time, providing resources in perpetuity to support their specified purposes. At Wayne State, endowed funds are pooled and reside in the Common Trust Fund. The Wayne State University Foundation Investment Committee is responsible for managing endowment fund investments. The committee selects external managers to invest the funds and closely monitors performance. The committee is assisted with endowment management activities by university staff and an external advisor, NEPC Inc. As of June 30, 2014, the market value for Wayne State University’s endowment totaled $313 million. This total reflects an annualized investment return of 14.1 percent for the period July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2014. The annualized investment return was 8 percent during the past three years and 10.7 percent during the past five.

As Michigan’s only urban, public research institution, Wayne State University and the School of Medicine are deeply committed to the advancement of health care protocols and procedures that enhance the quality of life in our city and around the world. Funding to support research innovation and discovery, and its related infrastructure, is crucial for the advancement of medicine and biomedical science.

To learn more about the campaign, visit or contact campaign associate Elisabeth Mirer at or 313-577-1151.

150 years in the heart of Detroit