Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Philanthropy as Healing Experience

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending a meeting of the chairs of all the philanthropy/foundation boards across MedStar Health. These are the volunteer leaders working on behalf of each hospital and entity to build a culture of philanthropy.  I was impressed by their dedication and commitment to make a difference for our patients and community through philanthropic gifts.

As one of the few physicians at the meeting, I was asked to share my perspective.  Bruce Bartoo, SVP and Chief Philanthropy Officer for MedStar subsequently wrote about it in his newsletter:  

Neil Weissman, president of the MedStar Health Research Institute, shared with the committee how his perspective on grateful patient philanthropy changed after having attended a philanthropy clinician education session.  Dr. Weissman summarized his own transformation in perspective by stating that, like so many other clinicians, he used to believe philanthropy was about asking a patient or family member for a gift.  Instead, he now recognizes that grateful patient philanthropy is about offering a gift to patients and families: the gift of an opportunity to express gratitude and find healing through a philanthropic investment.  
I will admit that it was a shift in thinking for me — to understand how philanthropy can be part of the healing process for patients and their family.  I encourage you to watch some of these very short videos (each are only a minute long and worth viewing in the order below):

 1.  Dr. Yochelson at MedStar National Rehab tells how a family looked to make a difference and bring closure when they lost their son: http://youtu.be/xxIhbhVNG0o

2.  A grateful family share their motivation to give: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qo_uhyN0oOo

3.  Dr. Eldadah from MedStar WHC talks about how philanthropy is part of the healing process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ic8_0GbYF_4

4.  And last but not least, yours truly discusses the connection between philanthropy and research: http://youtu.be/TTz4ya-z4W4

If you know of a philanthropic opportunity, please contact any philanthropy officer at the MedStar hospital you are working at or contact Katie.N.Carlin@medstar.net at MHRI.


  1. An important look inside what Philanthropy can mean to patients and their families.

  2. Dr. Terry FairbanksMay 1, 2014 at 10:36 AM

    Neil, this is fascinating and a new perspective for me.

    Coincidentally, I also learned something new about therapeutic philanthropy yesterday via a story on NPR. If you didn't hear it you should look for it and listen. They were talking about the NBA owner of the LA Clippers and the contrast between his hateful attitudes and the fact that he is known in the community is a very generous philanthropists. And they talked about the fact that bad people will manage their reputation through philanthropy. And they described his strategy as giving small amounts to many community groups. Is a very interesting perspective.

    The NPR story can be found here: