Gerstner Philanthropies COVID-19 Response

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  • Mayo Clinic study finds 1 in 8 patients with cancer harbor inherited genetic mutations

    In a new study published in JAMA Oncology, scientists with Mayo Clinic's Center for Individualized Medicine conducted genetic testing in more than 3,000 patients who were diagnosed with cancer at Mayo Clinic Cancer Center locations in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota. In all, the scientists found that 1 in 8 patients with cancer had an inherited cancer-related gene mutation. This mutation would not have been detected in half of these patients using a standard guideline-based approach. "We found that 13.5% of patients had an inherited mutation in a gene associated with the development of their cancer," says Niloy Jewel Samadder, M.D., a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist and hepatologist, who is the study's author. "Everyone has some risk of developing cancer, and in most cases the disease develops by chance. However, some people are genetically predisposed to developing certain types of cancer, such as breast or colon cancers."Dr. Samadder says uncovering these hidden inherited genetic mutations could lead to opportunities for cancer management in families and targeted cancer therapies that can save lives. Support for this project was provided in part by a Faculty Career Development Award from Gerstner Philanthropies.

  • Helping Hands Program Update: Q2 2020 Trends
    September 11, 2020

    Our Helping Hands grantee social services organizations are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis. We communicate with our Helping Hands grantee organizations informally throughout the year, and each quarter we ask them to report formally on program statistics, trends, and case studies. The immediate impact of the pandemic in Q2 led to some interesting trends, such as an overwhelming need for food, a decrease in domestic violence cases despite reports that violence is escalating, and a drop in rental arrears cases, though an increase in the level of arrears our grantees are seeing.

    Read Q2 Trend Report
  • The Rent Eats First, Even During a Pandemic
    August 31, 2020

    Before the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 800,000 people around the nation were threatened with eviction each month. Today, with unemployment levels unseen since the Great Depression and the expiration of federal benefits along with national and several state eviction moratoriums, millions of renters are at risk of losing their homes by the end of the year. Medical professionals have sounded the alarm about how the eviction crisis will exacerbate our public health emergency. At the beginning of August, 26 medical associations signed a letter urging Congress to provide housing resources to renting families, recognizing the housing crisis to be a health crisis. Our efforts to defeat Covid-19 and recover from the economic damage it has wrought will be deeply compromised if we fail to help families keep their homes. Besides pushing up coronavirus infection rates, the eviction crisis will also aggravate our unemployment crisis, as workers get displaced far from their jobs, and it will further complicate school reopenings, as evicted children, themselves at heightened risk of infection, shuffle from one school to the next.

  • 2020 Gerstner Family Career Development Award Recipients Announced

    The Mayo Clinic has announced this year’s recipients of the Gerstner Family Career Development Awards. The awards provide early career investigators across the Mayo Clinic enterprise with important seed money to conduct research to predict, prevent, treat and cure disease using individualized medicine approaches. Dr. Veronique Belzil, one of this year's recipients, is focused on improving diagnosis and treatment of ALS and FTLD. “Having lost a loved one to ALS, I’m driven by my desire to cure this devastating and fatal neurodegenerative condition,” Dr. Belzil says. Dr. Feichen Shen, another 2020 award recipient, is working to accelerate the translation of cancer drug repurposing into clinical practice by leveraging AI techniques. Dr. Shen says the Gerstner Award will allow him to continue his investigation in developing AI techniques to support the delivery of individualized medicine in practice. Gerstner Philanthropies has invested over $6.3 million in this program since 2008.

  • Racial inequities will grow if schools don’t open safely this fall. Here’s an action plan.
    July 28, 2020

    Lou Gerstner, retired chairman and CEO of IBM and founder of the Gerstner Family Foundation, recently published an Op-Ed in USA Today on the issue of reopening schools safely and effectively in the Fall. "Our national consciousness about racial inequity has been lifted to welcomed new heights in the past few months. The issue now is what exactly is going to be done to reduce inequity. Tearing down statues won’t contribute anything. Individuals committing millions of dollars to community action groups will help, as will increased commitment by business leaders to open up career ladders for people of color. However, despite all the good that might come from these welcomed changes, we are about to deliver a blow to the Black and Latino communities that will set back racial equity enormously. That blow is the failure to fully open K-12 schools, in particular those in large urban centers, in September."