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Over the top – WFU med center beats $100M goal

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By Cindy Stiff

WINSTON-SALEM – Sparked by the growing number of millionaires, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center has surpassed its $100 million fundraising goal a year earlier than planned.

Before the campaign started in 1996, only one donor had ever given the medical center $1 million or more, and that gift came from a corporation.

“The medical center never had this large a goal – we really weren’t sure we were going to make it,” says Michael Poston, vice president and associate dean of development and alumni affairs.

With the campaign scheduled to run through June 2001, 17 individual donors already had given $1 million or more by the end of February.

Seventy percent of the gifts were made outright, with the remainder from bequests and trusts.

One person, a former patient who asked for anonymity, gave $8 million.

In fact, most of the individual donors are former patients.

“Most are grateful patients,” Poston says. “They appreciate the care they received and the talent of the faculty.”

Medical centers and their fund-raising organizations throughout the U.S. are preparing to lobby against a bill introduced in Congress that would limit the ability to raise funds from former patients, Poston says.

“Though we do not breach confidentiality, this bill would dry things up severely,” he says, adding that a medical center needs to continuously seek to raise funds to keep abreast of new technology and research.

The medical center had raised $103 million by Feb. 29. About 43 percent of donations came from former patients, 19 percent from foundations and 10 percent from corporations. Alumni contributed 20 percent of the total individual gifts.

Poston says several factors helped the campaign exceed its goal, including a steering committee that included Dalton McMichael Sr., an industrialist from Mayotan, N.C., and trustee of the McMichael Family Foundation; A. Tab Williams, CEO of A.T. Williams Co.-WILCO, of  Winston-Salem; and Dr. Jean Brooks, a retired Greensboro physician who was the first woman to graduate from the Wake Forest Medical School in 1944.

The economy also helped, he says.

 “A million dollars today is not what a million was in 1965,” he says. “With the economy perking along so well, we have more millionaires and billionaires.”

John Whitaker, chairman of the campaign steering committee, says the medical center’s endowment will help recruit and retain physicians and researchers.

He says the funding priorities cover academic programs, special clinics and research, particularly in aging, cancer, cardiovascular disease, molecular medicine/genomics, pulmonary disease and the health of children and women.

Poston says a $1 million gift will endow a professorship in arthritis research and treatment and $1.5 million will endow a professorship for asthma research and treatment.

Another $9.7 million will go toward endowed scholarships. Although the amount is slightly below the $10 million goal for scholarships, Poston is optimistic. The “Sustain the Miracle” campaign still has 15 months to run.

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