A $25 million commitment to the University of Chicago from the Kiphart Family Foundation will expand global health and social development research and educational initiatives to address health inequities and their root causes in West Africa and in low- and middle-income communities around the world.
The gift will establish the Susan and Richard Kiphart Center for Global Health and Social Development, to be housed in the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. Led in partnership with the University of Chicago’s Biological Sciences Division, the Kiphart Center will bring together expertise from around the University in support of collaborative efforts with partner communities to alleviate disease, improve infrastructure, and promote community health and well-being.
Susan and her late husband Richard (Dick) have been advocates for global health for decades. Their first gift in support of global health helped build a well in Ghana. The well transformed an entire community; not only did it provide clean water for safe drinking and cooking, it allowed girls in the village to attend school instead of walking many miles to gather water. Seeing the transformative impact of their gift inspired them and others to help build more wells and several schools.
Their interest in having sustained impact, providing global experiences and training for students, and advancing applied research led them to the University of Chicago. Their philanthropy was instrumental in establishing the University’s Center for Global Health in 2013, through which University faculty and students have worked directly with community leaders and residents on life-changing public health initiatives. That center’s mission and operations will now be part of the Kiphart Center. Their new gift significantly expands this vision by supporting research, education and mentoring for University students and clinical trainees, and the work of interdisciplinary teams of faculty and students working in collaboration with local partners to address global social and health challenges.
“Confronting health inequalities is an urgent challenge for communities, here in Chicago and around the world,” said President Robert J. Zimmer. “We recognize that health issues affecting communities worldwide are complex and require a multidisciplinary approach. This generous gift from Susan Kiphart and the Kiphart Family Foundation will further integrate the University’s multidisciplinary resources and deepen and expand community collaborations to make a positive impact.”
The Kipharts met Olufunmilayo “Funmi” I. Olopade, the Walter L. Palmer Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine and Human Genetics, and her husband Christopher Sola Olopade, Professor of Medicine and dean for Academic Affairs in the Biological Sciences Division, more than a decade ago through their work with vulnerable children and families in West Africa. They have been regular collaborators with the Olopades and University faculty ever since.
“Over the last decade, through the continued support from Susan and Dick Kiphart, the University has led high-impact, global health efforts in more than a dozen countries, working on the ground with local colleagues and community partners,” said Funmi Olopade. “This new commitment allows us to expand these collaborative efforts, accelerate our progress in reducing health inequities, and deepen partnerships with the Crown Family School.”
“Our experiences in West Africa with the Olopades helped us to understand the challenges these communities face and the differences we can make by helping to build sustainable solutions that fit each community and meet their needs,” said Susan Kiphart. “We are especially excited to give more students opportunities to have experiences like these and grow as leaders to make even greater progress in the future.”
The Kiphart Center will build upon the Crown Family School’s long history of leadership in integrating research, education and direct intervention to address pressing social challenges that effect the health and well-being of vulnerable populations. Achieving health equity requires broad approaches that address the social, economic and environmental factors—education, employment and poverty reduction, housing, child care, safety and security, and service access—that influence health and well-being. Crown Family School faculty already operate in partnership with the Center for Global Health through education and research initiatives. In addition, the Crown Family School leads programs on global health and social development through its Graduate Program in Health Administration and Policy and its master’s program of study and certificate in Global Social Development Practice.
“The Kiphart Center is unique, in that it brings together experts in global health and situates it in a school focused on the many factors that we know are related to health, with the vision to achieve transformative breakthroughs and improvements in the well-being of children, families and communities around the globe,” said Deborah Gorman-Smith, dean of the Crown Family School and the Emily Klein Gidwitz Professor. “This is a powerful opportunity to build upon the University’s global health initiatives, shape the overarching policies and structural inequities that impact health, and expand our institutional vision and impact.”
Beyond providing critical medical and social services, research and interventions, the Kiphart Center will develop educational and economic opportunities within communities that will lead to scalable models for improving health and well-being. These can be applied in other communities, including those on Chicago’s South Side.