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Penn Medicine, Philadelphia Receives A Gift Of Over $1 Million

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A gift of over $1 million to the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine from Harris Philanthropies, Josh Harris, W’86, and Marjorie Harris, will bolster efforts to recruit applicants from diverse backgrounds — and especially those who live within the Philadelphia region — to Penn’s pathway and fellowship programs in both clinical medicine and biomedical research.

Even as the nation’s Black and Hispanic population continues to grow, professionals from these backgrounds remain underrepresented in medicine and scientific research. This gulf can contribute to inequities in care, and teams that lack diversity become limited in their creativity and innovation. The Harris’ gift will allow Penn Medicine to expand student recruitment at Penn Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases, Postdoctoral Opportunities in Research and Teaching (“PennPORT”) program, and Post-baccalaureate Research Education Program (“PennPREP”) — creating equitable representation in medicine and biomedical research that will ultimately improve care for every patient.

“The Perelman School of Medicine is dedicated to ensuring that its graduates in all disciplines reflect the diversity of the communities they serve,” said J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD, executive vice president of the University of Pennsylvania for the Health System and dean of the Perelman School of Medicine. “The additional positions created by the Harris’ generous gift will not only allow our programs to help meet that goal, but also expand scientific education into the Philadelphia community and inspire more young students to pursue health-related careers.”

The Harris Funds address key priorities in Penn Medicine’s Action for Cultural Transformation strategic plan: driving inclusion and diversity in its student body; building graduates who are ready to advance equity in medicine; and thoughtfully engaging community partners. For example, PennPREP helps mitigate the challenges faced by college graduates from underrepresented communities by providing intensive biomedical research experience required for admission into doctoral programs. PennPORT recruits postdoctoral researchers (those who have completed PhDs and are receiving additional training) who are dedicated to enhancing education in underrepresented communities — and many applicants are from these same communities. In addition to conducting research at Penn, PennPORT scholars teach undergraduates in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) at regional minority-serving institutions. This experience provides scholars with formal teaching instruction and fosters collaborations in research and education with partner institutions.

“We’re thrilled to have the partnership of Harris Philanthropies in offering more opportunities to aspiring students in Philadelphia and beyond,” says Donita C. Brady, PhD, the Harrison McCrea Dickson, M.D. and Clifford C. Baker, M.D. Presidential Professor and assistant dean for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (IDE) in Research Training. “We know that nearly all of our current research training program scholars go on to research-related careers, especially in academia, and many take faculty positions at HBCUs [historically black colleges and universities] and other minority-serving liberal arts colleges to shape the next generation of scientists.”

The Harris Infectious Diseases Fellowship, established in honor of Neil O. Fishman, MD, Chief Medical Officer of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, will help the division recruit applicants from diverse backgrounds, those interested in health disparities research, or those pursuing careers focusing on the care of underserved populations. Trainees in the program may gain specialized training in clinical epidemiology, quality improvement, and health policy. They will also receive concentrated experience in training tracks focused on improving preventive care and treatments for patients living with diseases like HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, and other emerging infectious diseases that disproportionately impact minority populations.

“We are thrilled to deepen our partnership with Penn Medicine, an institution that is not only at the forefront of breakthrough innovation within healthcare, but closely aligns with our mission and values at Harris Philanthropies – finding community-based solutions and creating equitable opportunities for historically underserved communities,” said Josh Harris. “We are proud to support the expansion of recruitment through this grant, and look forward to seeing how this partnership will inspire and encourage students from diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in medicine for years to come,” said Marjorie Harris.

These new funds continue the record of generosity from the Harrises to Penn. Earlier this year, they invested $1 million in support of early-stage companies working to improve the social determinants of health for economically disadvantaged Philadelphia residents through the Penn Medicine – Wharton Fund for Health. A $10 million gift established the Harris Family Alternative Investments Program at The Wharton School. In 2020, the Harrises, along with 76ers Co-Managing Partner David Blitzer and Sixers star Joel Embiid, partnered with Penn Medicine on the rapid deployment of COVID-19 antibody testing to Philadelphia’s front-line health care workers.