Research Showcase Spotlights Successes of Community-funded Science

Posted in GUMC Stories

JUNE 20, 2014—Members of the community came together with scientists at a recent event to celebrate the successes of Partners in Research (new window), a novel philanthropic program born out of Georgetown University Medical Center that empowers donors to vote on the research they wish to fund.

Hosted by Christine Sager, wife of Swiss Ambassador Manuel Sager, at the couple’s residence in Washington June 11, the event brought together more than 50 attendees for a reception and updates on the biomedical research that has been funded by the program this year.

Sager serves as diplomatic advocates chair for Doctors Speak Out (new window), the highly successful GUMC community education program from which Partners in Research emerged.

A Five-year Celebration

In addition to offering guests an opportunity to learn about the research projects funded this cycle, the event also commemorated the five-year anniversary of Doctors Speak Out.  In the past five years, there have been 19 Doctors Speak Out programs, featuring panel discussions among renowned scientific and medical experts for more than 2,000 attendees.

“Today is a graduation of five years, but it is also a commencement—it’s the beginning of the next phase of learning even more about the important research being conducted by Georgetown scientists and physicians,” said Alma Gildenhorn, a member of the executive committee of Doctors Speak Out.

In the three years since Partners in Research was launched, the program has raised $245,000, which funded a total of seven research projects.

“We have spun out Partners in Research to galvanize the community to support our young faculty who are bringing forward very interesting—and sometimes high-risk—ideas that need to be funded,” said Howard J. Federoff, MD, PhD (new window), executive vice president for health sciences at GUMC. “The extramural funding environment we are in right now has led to austere decisions by the federal government [regarding allocation of research dollars]. So it is spectacular to see the partners committed to success of our young faculty.”

Two researchers who received Partners funding showcased the results of their research, taking the opportunity to express their gratitude to the Partners in Research program. Assistant professor of neuroscience Mark Burns, PhD (new window), who is working with his collaborator and pharmacology professor Juan Saavedra, MD (new window), described the duo’s work on exploring possible new therapeutic options for patients who have suffered traumatic brain injury.

Gerard Ahern, PhD (new window), associate professor of pharmacology and physiology, outlined his research project to improve the treatment and prevention strategies for osteoporosis, the leading cause of bone fracture.

A Fond Farewell

The event also honored the contributions of Vivien Marion (new window), senior director of development for GUMC, for her work in having established Doctors Speak Out and Partners in Research. Marion will retire August 1 after eight years at Georgetown.

“There are some people who keep you attentive to the details necessary to be successful, and Vivien Marion is just that type of person,” Federoff said. “While there will not be an opportunity to find another Vivien, we will go forward for certain. Vivien has done spectacular work for us.”

Lauren Wolkoff
GUMC Communications