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Insight/Report on Private Giving
Orthopaedic Research Center Builds Program Around Horses, but People Benefit, Too
Imagine trying to build a house if you had nails, but no boards; if you had windows, but no doors; if you had land, but no foundation. You’re grateful for what you do have, but you can’t build a house – unless someone comes along with the needed materials. For the Orthopaedic Research Center at Colorado State University, private donors have pro-vided the needed materials and made it possible to build a University Program of Research and Scholarly Excellence – the Program in Musculoskeletal Research – that otherwise would not exist.
“For our program, private giving is huge,” said Dr. Wayne McIlwraith, Director of the Orthopaedic Research Center and a Professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences. “It is simply impossible to imagine where we would be with-out the generosity of our donors.”
Prior to 1984, the orthopaedic program operated with two state-funded faculty positions, a basic laboratory in the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital, and a few small clinical research projects. Dr. McIlwraith and his colleagues were interested in expanding the program to look more in-depth at diagnosing, treating and preventing equine musculoskeletal disease and joint injury. They wanted to develop more “tools in the toolbox” to provide better care for equine patients, and they hoped to improve long-term outcomes for horses with bone and joint problems.
“We began to get some of our clients investing in our program and, brick by brick, we slowly built up,” said Dr. McIlwraith. “We received more donations with success and were successful because of our continued donations.”
The Orthopaedic Research Center focuses on:
Since 1995, the Center has received $14 million in private donations, and grant funding (government and corporate) of $12.5 million. As the horse becomes an accepted model for human musculoskeletal disease and joint injury, additional funding through agencies such as the National Institutes of Health is becoming a viable avenue of support as well.
“I’d never support projects at the Orthopaedic Research Center that weren’t directly beneficial to the horse,” said Dr. McIlwraith. “It’s just very fortunate for people that horses have many of the same joint and tissue problems that people do, so people benefit from our work as well. As we are able to show that the horse is an excellent model for human osteoarthritis research, we will be able to do additional research supported through governmental funding agencies that benefits both horses and people.”
Dr. McIlwraith said that in working with donors, he has to dispel myths about funding for the orthopaedic program, with the donors often assuming he is supported primarily by the State of Colorado. The fact is, of 30 people working at the Orthopaedic Research Center, only two are salaried through the state. The rest of the faculty, research associates, graduate students, residents, administrative staff, and student hourlies rely on “soft” money. Overall, the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences only receives 10 percent of its budget from the state. When people hear that, Dr. McIlwraith noted, they understand the need for private donations.
The Gail Holmes Equine Orthopaedic Research Center was constructed with private funding from Gail Holmes and Herbert Allen, with additional donations funding the renovation of the adjacent Dairy Barn into state-of-the-art laboratories, including a high tech gait analysis system. The new MRI Center at the Equine Orthopaedic Laboratory was funded by the Walton Family Foundation, and Ken and Virginia Atkinson. Barbara Cox Anthony funded a University Chair to provide permanent support for a faculty member, and the Iron Rose Ranch Chair was established last year with a $3 million donation. Additional foundations, including the Stavros S. Niarchos Foundation, provide funding for salaries as well as research programs and basic operating dollars.
“The people who support us do so for a number of reasons,” said Dr. McIlwraith. “First, they are passionately interested in horses and the welfare of horses. Second, they are very aware of the human-horse connection. If we can solve musculoskeletal and joint problems for horses, we can help to solve them for humans as well, so it truly is a beneficial relationship to both species.”
The Orthopaedic Research Center, located on the South Campus just north of the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital, is part of a larger expansion plan that includes additional facilities for large animal medicine, a diagnostic medical center, expanded student space for second-year Professional Veterinary Medical students, equine sports medicine, community practice and zoological medicine, critical care units and more.
“The type of private investment we have been so fortunate to receive for the Orthopaedic Research Center is the type of private investment we must have in the South Campus expansion project if we are to be successful,” said Dr. Lance Perryman, Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “Through The Hope, The Care, The Cures campaign this year, we are optimistic that we will see a good measure of success as we continue to strive toward excellence in our veterinary and biomedical sciences programs. When we look at what private investment can do, and what it has done for the Orthopaedic Research Center, it becomes clear that private giving is our best prospect to achieve the goals we have set for our-selves to advance scientific and medical knowledge for the benefit of society.”