Taxman Foundation pledges $2.5M to boost training of digestive disease experts

Gift will honor Joseph Kirsner, founder of the Gastro-Intestinal Research Foundation

July 2, 2012

The Taxman Family Foundation will donate $2.5 million to support the training of specialists in the study and treatment of digestive disease at the University of Chicago Medicine.

The gift was announced Saturday evening at the annual fundraising event for the Gastro-Intestinal Research Foundation (GIRF). It will honor Joseph B. Kirsner, MD, PhD, the Louis Block Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago, who helped establish GIRF in 1962.

"This magnanimous gift is a fitting tribute to the seminal role played by Dr. Joseph Kirsner to further our understanding of gastrointestinal health and disease and to advocate for every patient he ever cared for," said Kenneth S. Polonsky, MD, Dean of the Biological Sciences Division and the Pritzker School of Medicine and Executive Vice President of Medical Affairs at the University of Chicago. "For more than 60 years, Joe Kirsner was a model in the care of the patient, a skill he passed on to his students, and in the study of complex disease. This gift will extend that legacy. We are very appreciative that the Taxman Foundation has agreed to honor Dr. Kirsner in this manner and would also like to acknowledge the critical role played by the Gastro-Intestinal Research Foundation in facilitating this gift."

The gift will support an endowed fellowship that will enable young physician-scientists of high promise to continue their clinical training while developing research skills and experience. It will support research and faculty recruitment initiatives, and it will help build the Joseph B. Kirsner faculty reception area in the medical center's New Hospital Pavilion, which will open in early 2013.

"Very few people have had an impact on me, or on the world, like Dr. Joseph Kirsner," said Seymour Taxman, CEO and founder of the Chicago-based Taxman Corporation. "He has helped thousands of patients in their personal battles against digestive disorders. He also has trained generations of experts in the field. It is an honor for my wife and me to help extend his reach and continue this profound legacy."

Kirsner has been an influential physician at the University of Chicago since his arrival in August 1935 as an assistant in medicine. Except for his time in the Army during World War II, he taught aspiring doctors, conducted medical research and took care of patients for almost 70 years. He stopped seeing patients seven years ago, at age 95. He published more than 750 scientific papers and 18 books, including six editions of his authoritative textbook, "Inflammatory Bowel Disease." He trained more than 200 of the field's leading specialists.

In 1962, a collection of Kirsner's grateful patients formed the Gastro-Intestinal Research Foundation, which has provided nearly $30 million to support gastrointestinal research at the University, including $2 million for the 17,000-square-foot Joseph B. Kirsner Center for the Study of Digestive Diseases, which opened in the medical center in 1986. Kirsner's contributions solidified the medical center's reputation as a national leader in the treatment and study of gastrointestinal disease. U.S. News & World Report has consistently ranked the University of Chicago Medical Center's GI section as among the top 10 in the country for more than 20 years.

Taxman, a longtime member of the GIRF board, is a pioneer in bringing suburban-style commercial development to the city. The Chicago-based Taxman Corporation develops neighborhood and community retail properties. Since its inception, the Corporation has developed nearly 85 shopping centers, drugstores, supermarkets, suburban properties, and other properties throughout the city.

About the University of Chicago Medicine
The University of Chicago Medical Center ranks among the best in the country in cancer treatment, digestive disorders, diabetes and endocrinology, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of the nation's hospitals. University of Chicago physician-scientists performed the first organ transplant and the first bone marrow transplant in animal models, the first successful living-donor liver transplant, the first hormone therapy for cancer and the first successful application of cancer chemotherapy. Its researchers discovered REM sleep and were the first to describe several of the sleep stages. Twelve of the Nobel Prize winners have been affiliated with the University of Chicago Medicine.

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