WORKING TOGETHER for a common purpose is a mainstay of the American family. For many, philanthropy is a natural extension of a family’s collective goals, distinct interests and innate passions. Philanthropy becomes a tradition that deepens family connections and passes core character traits from generation to generation.
Inspired by her own family’s legacy of giving, Patricia Ann “Patty” Smith made a $1 million bequest, which UT Southwestern received from her estate in 2011, to establish the Patricia A. Smith Distinguished Chair in Neuromuscular Disease Research, in honor of Gil Wolfe, M.D. Ms. Smith was following in the vibrant philanthropic tradition instilled in her by her mother, Jean Smith, and her late father, Dr. Bob Smith.
Ms. Smith died unexpectedly at a young age. She had served as the President and Chief Financial Officer of the Dr. Bob and Jean Smith Foundation, established by her parents in 1989. The Foundation has been a long-standing supporter of UT Southwestern, contributing more than $5 million over the last two decades to support stem-cell research and investigations in neuromuscular disease, as well as to establish, in 2004, the Dr. Bob and Jean Smith Foundation Distinguished Chair in Neuromuscular Disease Research, currently held by Dr. Steven Vernino, Professor of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics. In 1993, the Foundation established the Bob Smith, M.D., Center for Research in Pediatric Psychiatry and, in 1997, the Dr. Bob Smith Foundation Center for Prostate Research at UT Southwestern.
“The generous support from the Smith family has been instrumental in helping UT Southwestern become a leader in neuromuscular research,” said Dr. Vernino. “Many neuromuscular diseases are uncommon, so new research efforts often cannot proceed without philanthropic support.”
Ms. Smith’s gift was made in recognition of her longtime friend and physician, Dr. Gil Wolfe, a former Professor of Neurology at UT Southwestern and now Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurology at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, SUNY.
The first holder of the endowed chair is Dr. Stephen Cannon, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education, Basic Sciences, and Professor of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics. He served as Chairman of the Department of Neurology from 2002 – 2010. Dr. Cannon has made key discoveries about the mechanisms by which intermittent episodes of severe muscle weakness or stiffness are caused by mutations of ion channels that regulate the electrical excitability of muscle. This work has helped identify new treatment strategies that will soon be entering clinical trials.
With a distinguished physician as the head of the family, the Smiths made scientific research, education, and clinical care a focus of their philanthropic efforts, and Patricia inherited her father’s determination to help others. “My sister Patty had a passion for education, and in particular science and medicine,” said Sally Smith Mashburn, President and Treasurer of the Smith Foundation. “She deeply believed that through continued support of medical research, so much can be achieved to bring a better quality of life to so many.”
“We are honored that Patricia Smith entrusted our program in neuromuscular disease research with her generous bequest,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern. “The distinguished chair in her name will leave a lasting legacy of service that truly reflects the life she lived. The Smith family will be remembered forever as a vibrant force of philanthropy throughout all of Dallas.”
Dr. Podolsky holds the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery, Jr., M.D. Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration, and the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science.
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