Continuing a Tradition of Medical Discovery

Continuing a Tradition of Medical Discovery
Continuing a Tradition of Medical Discovery: Painting of the first public demonstration of ether as an anesthetic, at MGH in 1846

Part of the nation’s largest hospital-based research effort, the MGH Research Scholars Program seeks to extend Mass General’s unparalleled history as the birthplace of groundbreaking medical discoveries.

Massachusetts General Hospital is one of the premier research enterprises in the world. It is a unique place where scientists who explore the mechanics of disease on the cellular level collaborate with physicians who treat patients every day. Ideas flow freely, resulting in patients gaining access to the most innovative therapies and receiving care backed by rigorous research.

Mass General has a long list of medical discoveries and firsts in biomedical research, beginning with the first public demonstration of ether as general anesthesia, the first use of X-rays in the country and the first human limb reattachment. Today, Mass General hosts the largest hospital-based biomedical research program in the United States and is proud of its tradition of support­ing researchers.

To encourage the most outstanding investigators to go after big ideas that have no sure outcome and would be difficult to gain funding to undertake, Mass General launched its MGH Research Scholars Award competition in 2011.

“Some of the most exciting research that I’ve seen happen here over the last five years is research that was much too early — much too out of the box — for it to be funded by the National Institutes of Health or other supporters of research,” says MGH President Peter L. Slavin, MD.

In its first two years, the program awarded funds to 13 scientists who were at a point in their careers where they could benefit from flexible support to pursue creative research. Basic research provides medicine with a better understanding of the human body and how disease takes hold, which furthers the pursuit of new medical discoveries that will improve patient care.

To continue Mass General’s tradition of cutting-edge research, the award program hopes to add new scholars each year. Already, the effect has been impressive.

Randall Peterson, PhD, the Charles and Ann Sanders MGH Research Scholar, used his award to explore a new approach for his studies on zebrafish, a vehicle for understanding diseases that affect humans. The National Institutes of Health recognized Dr. Peterson for his promising work and awarded him participation in a multi-center, multimillion dollar grant that will bring close to $5 million to his lab to employ his model in another way, to screen for antidotes for chemical terror agents.

MGH leadership recognizes that the most innovative ideas need the investment of more resources and more time to get off the ground and into development,” says scholars program supporter Phyllis Rappaport. “The scholars program gave us a way to dig deeper into the science and seed those visionary ideas until a more traditional funding source picks them up.”

How you can help

A generous, anonymous donor promised to match every $500,000 raised up to $10 million. Each year, Mass General leaders rank and review applications and an award committee, co-led by Nobel Laureate Jack Szostak, PhD, of Mass General, makes the final selection.

  • MGH faculty-level scientists who devote at least 80 percent of their time to research, and are not already receiving significant, flexible support, compete for the honor of being named a scholar.
  • Award recipients receive $100,000 per year for five years.

Individuals who make a gift of $500,000 will have a unique opportunity to form an ongoing partnership with the scientist who receives the award. Donors may choose to name a Research Scholar Award. Philanthropic gifts in other amounts will be pooled to fund more scholar awards.

For information about how you can support the MGH Research Scholars Award, please contact us.