Thank you, Dr. Das: Gift from former faculty member creates endowed chair

Wadhwani Family Endowed Chair will help prepare next generation of researchers, health care providers

Former SMHS faculty member Dr. Gopal Das is shown here during his and his family’s recent meeting with the University of North Dakota Alumni Association & Foundation in Las Vegas. At the meeting, Das formally established the Wadhwani Family Endowed Chair of Translational Research. Image courtesy of UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences.

The UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences and UND Alumni Association & Foundation have announced creation of the Wadhwani Family Endowed Chair of Translational Research. The new position, which is expected to make an immediate impact on UND’s research enterprise broadly, is the result of a significant gift to the School by former SMHS faculty Dr. Gopal Das.

On Oct. 6, 2021, Dr. Das, along with members of his family, met with representatives of the Alumni Association & Foundation and School of Medicine & Health Sciences in Las Vegas to formally establish and recognize the creation of the Wadhwani Family Endowed Chair of Translational Research. Dr. Das made the gift commitment via his estate plan, along with agreeing to provide supplemental annual funding for the position.

The establishment of the Wadhwani Family Endowed Chair of Translational Research will enable the UND SMHS to recruit a nationally recognized leader interested in reducing the time often required to “translate” novel discoveries in the laboratory to the direct care of patients in the clinic, whether in the form of new pharmaceuticals or other therapeutics. The SMHS has managed a doctoral program in clinical and translational science since 2016.

Dr. Joshua Wynne (center right), dean of the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences, is among the UND representatives who met with Dr. Gopal Das and his family to establish the Wadhwani Family Endowed Chair of Translational Research. Image courtesy of UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences.

A generous donation

“We are so appreciative of Dr. Das for his generous donation to establish this endowment in the School of Medicine & Health Sciences,” said DeAnna Carlson Zink, Chief Executive Officer of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation. “Faculty endowments are a powerful tool for recruiting and retaining top-notch faculty, which enhances the educational experience for UND students. Thank you, Dr. Das. Your gift will impact students well into the future, and they will benefit from hearing the story of how you became a successful physician and educator despite very humble beginnings.”

The Wadhwani Family Endowed Chair will prepare the next generation of researchers and health care providers from a variety of disciplines to deliver cutting-edge clinical care to the people of North Dakota and the region by giving them the practical experience necessary for the production and evaluation of new discoveries. The Endowed Chair position will move the School of Medicine & Health Sciences forward in the world of translational studies, build additional excitement at UND around research generally, and provide permanent support for a leading physician-scientist working towards advancements in clinical medicine.

“The establishment of the Wadhwani Family Endowed Chair of Translational Research will enable the UND SMHS to recruit a nationally recognized leader interested in reducing the time often required to ‘translate’ novel discoveries in the laboratory to the direct care of patients in the clinic,” the story reports. Image courtesy of UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences.

Discovery remains a key part of the mission of the SMHS, which in fiscal year 2021 took in more than $38 million in grants and other awards for biomedical research, mostly from federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over the past decade, the School has been awarded nearly $300 million in external funding for sponsored research projects dedicated to studying cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, rural healthcare, and various infectious diseases—including COVID-19.

“Securing financial support for such endowed chairs is one of the two principal goals of the School’s philanthropic focus, the other being the mitigation of student debt,” added Dr. Joshua Wynne, dean of the School of Medicine & Health Sciences and UND’s vice president for health affairs. “Thanks to the generosity of our donors and the strong support we get from the North Dakota Legislature, we’ve been successful in reducing medical and other student debt by quite a bit. The Wadhwani Family Endowed Chair will be a powerful tool to aid us in recruiting, and retaining, the best and the brightest faculty to UND. And securing and retaining the best faculty translates into the best science and discovery, and the best teaching of our students.”

About the author:

Brian SchillBrian James Schill is director of the Office of Alumni and Community Relations at the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences.