“They walked into the room, and they said, ‘What can we do? We have this diagnosis. How can we help? We want to move the field forward. We want to be as proactive as we can. This is our cause now.’”

—Dr. Deborah Hall


At Rush University Medical Center, we were honored to be a part of the journey to enriched physician engagement that has resulted in professional referrals and meaningful philanthropic relationships. We spoke with one clinician researcher who explained how her perspective on philanthropy changed after attending the Medical Philanthropy 20/20 workshop.

After the workshop, everything clicked for Dr. Deborah Hall, and she began listening to patients differently—with stunning results:

There are patients who, especially early in diagnosis, are highly motivated to be proactive in the disease. So many times after you give a diagnosis and they come to terms with it, the next question is, “Well, what can I do?” I think people have been saying those things to me in a different way all along, but I didn’t recognize before that they were saying, “I want to help.”

Within two weeks of the workshop, I had a patient who came in. I gave him a new diagnosis, and he said something to the effect that he was a philanthropist. In my mind, I went to the philanthropy session. I thought, that means he might be interested in talking about research and this disease. I never would have come to that conclusion before.

Like I normally do, I told the patient to come back in a few weeks and bring his wife, and let’s talk more about the diagnosis. And I said to my philanthropy colleague, I’ve got this patient and I think he’s saying something to me. I’m not sure what it is, but it might not be a bad idea for you to be around when he comes back, and if we get into a conversation that it seems like you can help with, then I’ll come get you. She said okay. And that’s exactly what happened.

Once the professional referral occurred, Dr. Hall’s development partner took over the philanthropic aspect of the relationship—a relationship that has both been meaningful to the donor and had a tremendous impact on Rush. Reflecting on this engagement, the development professional shared the following:

For her, it was like a whole different way to listen, like the light bulb went on. It was really stopping, pausing, and answering his question, and ending that meeting with, “If you’d like to hear more, I’d be happy to put you in touch with my colleague who works with us on this.” And he said yes. She saw me in the hallway later and said, “I think I have one of those people we were talking about in the workshop, and I’m going to hand him over to you.” That was a couple of years ago now, and this person has made several six-figures gifts to the program. We just have a really fantastic relationship with him. He’s a real partner to the program.


Click here to watch these partners tell their story, and start a conversation on social media to share your own success stories of meeting patient needs through physician engagement and referral-based medical philanthropy.