Major Donation Will Improve, Sustain Sexual Health Research and Care

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Monday, March 6, 2017

The University of Minnesota Medical School today announced a significant donation that will provide sustained support for its Program in Human Sexuality while providing an incentive for additional individual donations. This area of health care is facing a shortage of funding for research and care programs across the country.

The Chicago-based TAWANI Foundation, founded by philanthropist COL (IL) Jennifer N.  Pritzker, IL ARNG (Retired) has donated $3 million to the nationally recognized Program. Half of the money will be immediately available. The other half will be made available when the program matches the pledge with other donations. In total, this gift could bring in nearly $5 million to support sexual health research, education and care at the University.

“With help from the TAWANI Foundation’s generous gift, we’re going to develop solutions rooted in research for the myriad of sexual health problems people face in this country,” said Eli Coleman, Ph.D., director of the Program in Human Sexuality. “We’re fortunate and grateful to now have endowed funds that will sustain our goal of improving quality of life and health outcomes.”

The donation comes at a time when funding for such programs is at an all-time low. In the 1970s, an estimated 50 centers were dedicated to the science of human sexuality. Now, just vestiges of these programs remain, and many of them are dedicated to narrow subject areas such as HIV or other diseases.

Sexual Health – It Matters

This gift will be used to fund an endowed clinical research chair and an endowed professorship in sexuality and aging, as well as to establish a National Center for Gender Spectrum Health.

The clinical chair will develop scientifically sound clinical practices related to poorly addressed areas of care such as sexual dysfunction and compulsive sexual behavior.

The professorship in sexuality and aging will improve scientific understanding of sexual health for older adults. By advancing knowledge of this overlooked area of health, this position will be able to promote public policies that support access to sexual health care, medicine and therapy.

The National Center for Gender Spectrum Health will treat patients in need of sexual health-related medical care in a stigma-free environment supporting healthy gender identity. The NIH recently designated sexual and gender minorities as a health disparity population, acknowledging the challenges that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender-diverse patients face in our current health care system.

Research shows that stigma and prejudice contribute to higher mortality rates among LGBT people.

“The field of sexual health is very broad. It affects everyone and is tied to various other facets of health and well-being,” said Pritzker. “We need to invest in research to advance our understanding so that all patients can have an enhanced quality of life.”

Generous History at UMN, Elsewhere

Pritzker’s TAWANI Foundation has been a longtime supporter of the Program in Human Sexuality. Through her foundation, Pritzker has committed more than $6.5 million to the University of Minnesota in the last decade. These donations were critical in establishing the nation’s first and second endowed academic chairs in sexual health.

These chairs provide infrastructure support for the Program in Human Sexuality, advance sexual health nationally and internationally, enhance the program’s sexual health curriculum for medical students and helped develop an international certificate program in sexual health. Pritzker’s support also helped sponsor three national summits on medical school education in sexual health and a summit on sexual health education research.  

The TAWANI Foundation has a long history of supporting organizations working in the areas of human sexuality and gender identity. Beyond the University of Minnesota, recent grants have included an up to $2 million commitment to University of Victoria in Canada for its chair in transgender studies and an up to $1 million commitment to Lurie Children’s Hospital’s Gender & Sex Development Program in Chicago.

To learn more about options for supporting sexual health research and care, visit http://z.umn.edu/tawanigift.

About the University of Minnesota Medical School
The University of Minnesota Medical School is at the forefront of learning and discovery, transforming medical care and educating the next generation of physicians. Our graduates and faculty produce high-impact biomedical research and advance the practice of medicine. Visit med.umn.edu to learn how the University of Minnesota is innovating in all aspects of medicine.