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Giving to medicine and health at the University of Minnesota

Gifts in action

Discover what’s possible. Browse these features to find out more about the impact of University of Minnesota research, education, and care—and how you can help.

First-year pharmacy student Ernest Ruiz and second-year medical student Katy Bratko discuss a plan for patients at the Phillips Neighborhood Clinic. (Photo: Scott Streble)

Donors Mary K. and Gary Stern have invested in the Phillips Neighborhood Clinic, where faculty-guided U medical students provide care to patients in need.

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Minnesota Vikings center John Sullivan is giving patients at University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital and their siblings a new place to play. Sullivan pledged $150,000 last fall to create the Sullivan Playground, a safe and accessible space designed by Minnesota company Landscape Structures for children of all abilities.

Minnesota Medical Foundation board member Liz Hawn and her husband, Van, recently followed up their initial gift with another $25,000 donation. (Photo: Shawn Sullivan)

A famous reporter was once advised to “follow the money.” Here at the University of Minnesota, tracing the journey of a $25,000 gift from Liz Hawn and her husband, Van, on its path through the Department of Neuroscience is a perfect case in point for how private donations can reignite critical research—and, ultimately, become the gift that keeps on giving.

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University of Minnesota senior Nikolas Job wrapped up his academic year as a communications major and is beginning his third straight summer internship at a company he hopes to work for one day.

Hill-Rom, a medical technology firm, makes the chest-compression vest Job has used since childhood to manage his cystic fibrosis (CF). Not only has the company offered Job the chance to work in marketing, but it often sends him to speak to groups of physicians, nurses, and others about its products and his personal experience.

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Although Bob Johnson calls himself a “Swede from the East Side of St. Paul,” with a little prodding, you’ll learn that he carries many other titles as well: lawyer, former Minnesota state legislator, war veteran, proud father of six, cancer survivor.

In the late 1990s, Johnson was diagnosed with prostate cancer and sought treatment at the University.

(From left to right) University physicians John Wagner, M.D., and Margaret MacMillan, M.D.; Minnesota Vikings quarterback and former FSU player, Christian Ponder; Ethan, Trey, Candi, and Jimbo Fisher; Rebecca Kill; and Karen Kaler and University President

When the Jimbo Fisher and his wife, Candi, learned earlier this year that their youngest son, 6-year-old Ethan, has a rare blood disease called Fanconi anemia, they dealt with the devastating news in private. Then they decided to use their visibility in the media to raise awareness of the disease as well as money for research at the University of Minnesota.

Demetris Yannopoulos, M.D., is part of an awareness effort focused on teaching more people how to respond when someone suffers sudden cardiac arrest. (Photo: Richard Anderson)

Demetris Yannopoulos, M.D., and a group of collaborators aim to improve survival rates after sudden cardiac arrest—when the heart unexpectedly stops beating—by at least 50 percent in five years through an innovative implementation and awareness effort called the HeartRescue Project. The goal? For every American who suffers sudden cardiac arrest to receive evidence-based, state-of-the-art care at the scene, en route to the hospital, and at the hospital.

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Since he and his colleagues identified the gene responsible for spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA1) 18 years ago, Harry Orr, Ph.D., has not tired in his pursuit of a cure.

Orr's team, after cloning the SCA1 gene and developing animal models to understand how ataxia affects the body, is reaching another turning point in its work—developing several promising drug compounds that could one day be used to treat the disease.

And Orr has a new partner in this quest quite literally from the other side of the world.

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When Florida State University football coach Jimbo Fisher and his wife, Candi, learned earlier this year that their son Ethan has a rare, life-threatening blood disorder called Fanconi anemia, they felt compelled to take action that would help not only Ethan but other children, too.

So they established the Kidz 1st Fund to raise money for Fanconi anemia research at the University of Minnesota. The University is a leader in discovering better ways to treat the disorder and in the pursuit of a cure.

Sally Sweatt has four canine companions at home and owns four others.

Sally Sweatt surrounds herself with animals. It only made sense for Sweatt to support research that would help animals and humans who have cancer through the University of Minnesota's comparative oncology program.

In gratitude to his doctors, Matthew donated part of his bar mitzvah money to research at the University of Minnesota. [Photo: Alison Langer]

Of all the things a teenage boy might choose to do with his bar mitzvah money, giving a portion to medical research might seem low on the list. After all, there are Xboxes and iPods and skateboards to buy. But when Matthew, 13, gave his money to a research program led by John Wagner, M.D., at the University of Minnesota, he was sharing a heartfelt thanks.

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Nine-year-old Zachary "Zac" Bartz isn't your typical second-grader -- to many, he's an inspiration. Zachas a disorder called neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), which has caused tumors to grow in his brain and for which there is no known cure. Zachas endured multiple surgeries, countless rounds of chemotherapy, and 30 radiation treatments -- all conducted at clinics associated with the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota.

Jaclyn Doffin holding Sophia and Tony Doffin holding Grace and Tyler. (Submitted photo)

When Jaclyn and Tony Doffin found out that they were having triplets, they got busy planning for their new life with three infants. One of the triplets was diagnosed with a heart condition prior to birth, but the family never anticipated the devastating complications that their baby would have as a result. When the triplets, Tyler, Sophia, and Grace, were born on September 8, 2008, doctors quickly determined that Grace had a more severe case of hypoplastic right heart syndrome than originally thought. “She was born with three [heart] chambers,” explains Tony. “She was missing the one that pumped [blood] to the lungs.”

Research by Jakum Tolar, M.D., Ph.D., and John Wagner, M.D., moved quickly from mouse studies to showing success in paitents. (Photo: Emily Jensen)

For the first time ever, physician-scientists at the University of Minnesota have demonstrated that a lethal skin disease can be successfully treated with stem cell therapy.

Medical School researchers John E. Wagner, M.D., and Jakub Tolar, M.D., Ph.D. — in collaboration with researchers in Oregon, the United Kingdom, and Japan — used stem cells from bone marrow to repair the skin of patients with a fatal skin disease called recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB).

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Philanthropy makes a real difference in the lives of children with debilitating diseases and disorders. Because of Alfred and Ingrid Lenz Harrison’s $1 million challenge gift to the University of Minnesota’s Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Initiative in 2007, for example, researchers here are digging deeper into the causes and possible therapies for autism and related conditions.

Joanie Videen, with her husband, Brad, dealt with type 1 diabetes for nearly 20 years before receiving life-changing islet and pancreas transplants at the University.

Friends are surprised when Joanie Videen, 54, says it is sleep, not food, that has put her over the moon about her pancreas transplant in July. "It’s the best gift I've ever had," she says. "I can sleep all night."

While Videen has dealt with diabetes for nearly 20 years, for the past decade she experienced hypoglycemia unawareness, meaning she had none of the warning symptoms that help diabetics recognize when their blood glucose level falls too low.

Motivated by a vision of healthier American communities, Leslie and Lowell Kruse created a scholarship to support future leaders through the School of Public Health’s Master of Healthcare Administration Program. (Photo: Tim Rummelhoff)

Lowell Kruse was the youngest student in the Master of Healthcare Administration (M.H.A.) Program when he came to the School of Public Health (SPH) in 1965. He was 21 and had just graduated from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. His wife, Leslie, was 19. They drove to Minnesota in Lowell’s father’s cattle truck with their furniture and 6-week-old baby. "We were absolutely clueless," says Leslie. "We looked like the Clampetts."

Ophthalmologist Richard L. Lindstrom, M.D., and his wife, Jacalyn, are giving back in gratitude for the support Richard received as a medical student.

Twin Cities ophthalmologist Richard L. Lindstrom, M.D., has many fond memories of campus life as a University of Minnesota medical student, including his fraternity involvement and season tickets to Gopher football games. But most memorable and inspiring, he says, was the support he received from others.

The Friswold family, from left: Steve, Marie, Fred, Cyndie (Hays), Barry, and Ben. “Mom and Dad have always been generous donors and volunteers, and that spirit of community giving is contagious,” Barry says. (Photo courtesy of Marie Friswold)

As a child, Barry Friswold spent a lot of time in the hospital — but not because he was sick. It was his sister Michelle who had leukemia. Parents Fred and Marie Friswold spent as much time as they could in the hospital with Michelle before she died in 1967 at age 4. But the hospital room was too cramped for the whole family to be together.


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