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Record-setting gift: Department receives $2M for endowed chair in women's health

Tom and Jean McGough established the Jean McGough and Eleanor Forliti Endowed Chair in Women's Health in memory of Jean's mother.

The Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Women's Health recently received the largest private donation in its history. Jean McGough and her husband, Tom, pledged $2 million to establish the Jean McGough and Eleanor Forliti Endowed Chair in Women's Health in memory of Jean's mother. Department head Linda Carson, M.D., will be the first chairholder.

"I can't emphasize enough how valuable this gift is to our department," says Carson. "It will provide resources that can help us expand in many important areas, from start-up research funds to clinical trials to recruiting a division director for gynecological oncology."

Having money available to start innovative research projects is especially valuable, Carson explains. "In order for our faculty to receive large federal grants through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), they need start-up funds so they can get some preliminary results." Once faculty members demonstrate that their research project is worthy, they can more effectively compete for NIH grants.

For private donors like the McGoughs, the benefit to funding such innovative research is huge: In many cases, a relatively small contribution can be leveraged to attract federal grants that are worth many times the original investment. In the end, countless patients could benefit from the results.

"We're always trying to find ways to help," says Jean McGough. "It seems that the University is always getting its funds cut by the state legislature, so this seemed like the best way to help the Medical School continue its important research on these diseases."

Carson says that faculty members in her department are currently working on a number of such promising research projects, including a clinical trial of compounds that may be useful in treating ovarian cancer; a study that looks at altering enzymes associated with the disease; and the value of using complementary and alternative medicine techniques to stimulate the immune systems of ovarian cancer patients.

Jean McGough knows ovarian cancer well. In 1993, she cared for her mother, Eleanor Forliti, as she wrestled the disease through the final three months of her life.

Years later, a friend introduced McGough to Carson. The two women hit it off; McGough had at last found a caring expert she could trust. Their relationship eventually led to the McGoughs' gift.

The Jean McGough and Eleanor Forliti Endowed Chair in Women's Health brings a dose of national prestige to the department. The chair will join the Shirley A. Sparboe Endowed Chair in Women's Cancer Research as another beacon to attract renowned faculty members to the department and its important work.

For more information on how you can support the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Women's Health, please contact Kari Oeltjen of the Minnesota Medical Foundation at 612-625-6495 or k.oeltjen@mmf.umn.edu.

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