Collaboration is a key to success for both musicians and scientists, says musical composer and lyricist Mildred Kayden, whose family foundation is endowing the first chair for the MGH Research Institute.

Composer and lyricist Mildred Kayden always has her eye out for the next good idea. That’s why her family foundation decided to establish the first endowed chair at the Massachusetts General Hospital Research Institute: the Bernard and Mildred Kayden Endowed MGH Research Institute Chair.

Research Institute
Mildred and Bernard Kayden

“My husband was always interested in helping people get things going,” says Mrs. Kayden, 93, whose late husband, Bernard Kayden, was a real estate lawyer and investor who had a vision for the future and recognized potential. “That’s what we know will happen with this gift,” she says.

Mrs. Kayden also understands the importance of collaboration. Among her best known works are the recently revived Off-Broadway shows, “Storyville,” a musical about the birth of jazz she wrote with Boston-based playwright Ed Bullins, and “Ionescopade,” which she wrote with Robert Allan Ackerman, based on works by avant-garde playwright Eugene Ionesco.

“It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to work with people who offer a different perspective,” says Mrs. Kayden. “You learn so much.” Indeed, earlier in her career, after studying for a PhD in music at Harvard and Radcliffe (she completed her master’s degree there instead), she taught music history at Vassar College for a number of years.

Research Institute Builds Collaboration

Susan Slaugenhaupt, PhD, the scientific director at the MGH Research Institute, says collaboration is a critical element in the Research Institute. Researchers at Mass General partner with businesses, foundations, other academic institutions and, most importantly, with each other. Mass General conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the United States and includes more than 6,000 people working across 30 different departments.

“The MGH Research Institute serves as a cohesive support system for all our researchers,” Dr. Slaugenhaupt says. “The Bernard and Mildred Kayden Chair goes a long way toward making that happen.”

“With this gift, we hope to help scientists do their research, do it brilliantly, and make some good idea a reality.” Mildred Kayden

Established just one year ago, the MGH Research Institute is committed to supporting basic science, encouraging young investigators and developing the relationships that help to shepherd good ideas through proof-of-concept to life-changing therapies for patients. Dr. Slaugenhaupt says The Kayden Foundation’s gift provides the kind of reliable funding so difficult to secure from government agencies like the National Institutes of Health.

Supporting Early-Stage Research

“Competition for NIH grants has increased tremendously,” Dr. Slaugenhaupt says. “In order for a proposal to stand out, you need to have already completed several experiments and gathered a great deal of data.”

But funding for that critically important, early-stage research is difficult to come by. The Kayden Foundation gift will provide a promising MGH scientist with consistent resources to develop an idea and access a network of other MGH scientists who might collaborate or provide other support.

Mrs. Kayden says she received excellent care from a team of physicians at Mass General several years ago mentioning, in particular, Eric M. Isselbacher, MD; Igor F. Palacios, MD; and Gus J. Vlahakes, MD.

“I was involved in a new device trial that was very successful,” she says. “With this gift, we hope to help scientists do their research, do it brilliantly, and make some good idea a reality.”

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