Board Chair’s Message 2020

Board Chair’s Letter

Spring 2020

“What’s past is prologue” The Tempest

This quotation from William Shakespeare’s play struck me as a way to put the current COVID-19 pandemic in perspective. Growing up in the 1950’s, viral epidemics were common and frequent. Before effective vaccination programs, measles, mumps, chicken pox and seasonal influenza were all part of a “Baby Boomers” childhood. The most dreaded viral epidemic, however, was caused by polio. For several summers in the early 1950’s, we were restricted from large gatherings and swimming pools were drained for fear of spreading the polio virus. We were practicing a form of “social distancing.” One of my earliest childhood memories is of my mother taking three little kids on several city buses to a vaccination clinic set up in the former St. Anne’s Hospital on the West Side of Chicago.

Now, being in my eighth decade, the COVID-19 pandemic seems almost like a bookend to my childhood remembrances. Until safe and effective therapies and vaccines are developed and widely available, I am reminded of the scourge that polio brought to our lives in the pre-Salk era. A lesson that the past has taught us, is when there is a major shock to our system, we do not go back to the ways things used to be. Remember air travel before 9/11?

So what might grant requests to foundations for funding look like in this “new normal?” Will we see more requests from food pantries and food banks as more people lose their jobs and become food insecure? And will there be greater utilization of free clinics as families lose employer subsidized health insurance? Will there be a need to furnish personal protective equipment (PPE) for front line providers and responders? What about replenishing depleted strategic stockpiles of necessary supplies to get through this pandemic – and the next? Clinical trials for new drugs and vaccines will need funding. I’m only scratching the surface on the increased demands for funding.

We can look to the past to provide a window into the probable expectations that will be placed on charitable foundations. This is occurring when the financial markets are depleting non-profit portfolios. What seems to be brewing for foundations is a tempest.

William N. Werner, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.P.

Board Chair