New gift puts Columbia at forefront of biomedical research education

Dear Colleagues:

Earlier this morning, I had the special pleasure of announcing at the first VP&S open forum a visionary $175 million gift from Roy and Diana Vagelos to support Columbia’s early career physician-scientists and PhD students in our graduate programs in biomedical science. This is an extraordinary day in the life of our institution: a moment to contemplate all we can achieve together and to express our gratitude to the many people who make our shared work possible.

The latest of the Vagelos family’s exceptional gifts to Columbia will be dedicated to strengthening our culture of excellence, sustaining it into the future, and investing in the remarkable people who bring it to life. The largest portion of the gift—$125 million—will establish an endowment to transform the way we nurture the careers of PhD students in the biomedical sciences. The remaining $50 million will fund the programs I announced in December to accelerate the progress of physician-scientists seeking to develop expertise in both fundamental biology and clinical medicine. Reducing the disproportionate financial burdens that deter historically marginalized groups from pursuing careers in science is central to these initiatives.

The Roy and Diana Vagelos Institute for Biomedical Research Education we are creating to oversee and advance these programs will place Columbia at the vanguard of graduate education in the biomedical sciences. The Institute will be dedicated to developing a new academic model, one that encourages and supports the sort of intellectual risk-taking needed for transformative discoveries in the health sciences. To learn more about the Institute and this pioneering gift, including the initial members of an external scientific advisory board, please see our public announcement.

Of course, the name of the Institute could not be more fitting. Roy and Diana Vagelos stand alone as Columbia benefactors, possessing a unique combination of generosity, insight, determination, and belief in the future. The breadth of their contributions to education and scientific research at Columbia, and the impact of their dedicated work and their philanthropy on public health over a period of decades, defy easy description.

Future generations of students, faculty, and staff yet to set foot on our campus will no doubt be grateful for all they have done for Columbia, and so are we. Please join me in thanking Roy and Diana for their continuing support, for their commitment to medicine and to science, and for their belief in us.

All my best,

Katrina Armstrong, MD 
Dean of the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons
Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences, Columbia University