With a room filled with passionate supporters and friends, Massachusetts General Hospital began its journey toward the future of medicine.

On Oct. 15, 2010, MGH President Peter L. Slavin, MD, announced the public launch of the largest fundraising effort in Mass General’s history: the Campaign for the Third Century of MGH Medicine.

Dr. Slavin shared with nearly 500 guests gathered at the Westin Waterfront Boston that as the public launch began, 66 percent of the $1.5 billion goal had already been raised. But Mass General will need help to meet the enormous challenges facing health care and to achieve its ultimate goal — a goal that equates to raising half a million dollars a day through 2013, he added.

“This is our time to lead, and to uphold a tradition … a tradition that does not flinch from doing what must be done,” Dr. Slavin said of the fundraising effort.

He reminded MGH supporters that Mass General was built on philanthropy. In 1810, two physicians wrote a letter to Boston community leaders, appealing to those private citizens to financially support a hospital to help the poor. “That belief that when in distress everyone becomes our neighbor remains at the core of Mass General’s culture,” Dr. Slavin stated.

Focus on Fundraising Priorities

The campaign has several fundraising priorities. They include a new building that will house a renovated emergency department, operating rooms equipped with the most advanced medical imaging technology and private patient rooms. Other priorities include promoting innovative research, enhancing medical education, supporting multidisciplinary care centers and subsidizing the unrestricted MGH Fund, which allows the hospital to respond to emergencies and opportunities.

Dr. Slavin also announced a $35 million gift from Peter and Paula Lunder and the Lunder Foundation. That gift will help, in part, to fund a new education initiative, the Dr. James J. Dineen Maine-Mass General Health Education Partnership. In recognition of the Lunders’ generosity, the Building for the Third Century of MGH Medicine will be named the Lunder Building.

Cathy Minehan, chair of the MGH Board of Trustees, kicked off the program by welcoming guests and introducing Tim Johnson, MD, medical editor of ABC News. Dr. Johnson narrated a powerful multimedia presentation that shared stories of patients who overcame great obstacles; stressed the importance of research and education at MGH; and demonstrated the hospital’s global reach.

Former MGH patients, who participated in the program, included Frank Robinson and Eddie Martin.

Grateful for Lifesaving Care

In 2008, Mr. Robinson experienced a life-threatening heart attack, which led to him having a high-risk heart transplant. He told guests that he reflects every day on the outstanding care he received at MGH that saved his life. “My family is proud and grateful to join you in your campaign,” Mr. Robinson said.

A touching segment featured Eddie Martin, who at 16 years old suffered multiple brain injuries following a freak accident. Through the voice of his mother, Karin, guests heard how MGH caregivers valiantly and successfully fought to save Eddie’s life. Eddie also came on stage following the media presentation and thanked Mass General.

Lee Woodruff talked about the effect a war injury can have on a family. Her husband Bob suffered from a brain injury from a roadside bomb while working as an ABC news reporter in Iraq. She said Bob’s brother said it best: “ ‘It’s not just Bob who got hit by the bomb, it was our whole family.’ ”

Mrs. Woodruff stressed the importance of the Home Base Program, a Mass General program, supported in part by the Red Sox Foundation. The program provides specialized clinical services for veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars affected by post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury and for their families.

Incredible Results in a Short Time

Some of the hospital’s most passionate supporters also spoke. Mark Schwartz said that even though he and his family have never been patients at Mass General, he and his wife, Lisa, believe that, “Through the Mass General, we feel we have an incredible opportunity to change the world.”

Terry and Susan Ragon, honorary co-chairs of the campaign, and founding supporters of the Ragon Institute of MGH, Harvard and MIT, shared personal stories that provided the basis of their support of the research institute to fight infectious diseases, with the first priority being the search for a vaccine against AIDS/HIV.

On a trip to Africa with Mass General’s Bruce Walker, MD, Mr. Ragon said he saw firsthand the devastation of HIV/AIDS. After listening to Dr. Walker, Mr. Ragon learned researchers need access to funds that provide more freedom for chasing bold ideas. “We had a different vision and the vision was to bet on people, not products,” Mr. Ragon said. “I’m blown away by the results Dr. Walker and his team have achieved in an incredibly short time.”

Closing the program was Partners HealthCare Chair Jack Connors Jr., who with his wife Eileen, is an honorary co-chair of the campaign. Mr. Connors described his visit to the magnificent new Lunder Building, and how impressed he was by it, but added: “It’s not the bricks. It’s not the stone. And it’s not the glass that makes the Mass General what it is today. It’s the people,” Mr. Connors said. “It’s a culture of caring, and it’s not just for the patients, it’s for each other … This is a very special time and a very special place.”

Recognized during the evening celebration were John and Linda Henry, who also serve as honorary campaign co-chairs and campaign co-chair W. Gerald Austen, MD, and MGH Trustee Patricia Ribakoff.

To learn more or make a donation, visit the campaign website at www.thirdcenturyofmedicine.org.