On September 24, U of T President Meric Gertler announced a massive $250 million gift to the Faculty of Medicine from the Temerty Foundation. The donation has been hailed as a transformational gift for the future of not just the university, but also medicine and health care at large. 

Plans are now in place for the funds to be put to use within the first year of the donation’s receipt. But what exactly will the donation from the Temerty Foundation achieve?

Who controls the purse strings?

The Temerty Foundation has been steeped in commitments to research and discovery in medicine and health care since its formation in 1997. It has been key in the establishment of several milestone institutions in Canada, including the Temerty Center for Therapeutic Brain Intervention; the Louise Temerty Breast Cancer Center; and the world’s first international telesimulation centre, the Temerty-Chang International Centre for Telesimulation and Innovation in Medical Education at the University Health Network.

U of Tʼs list of clear-cut goals begs the question of how involved the Temerty Foundation will be in the execution of them. When asked about the extent of the Temertys’ role in the university’s management of the gift, Professor Trevor Young, Dean of U of T’s newly christened Temerty Faculty of Medicine, reinforced that the faculty’s academic freedom is a necessary condition for any donation. 

“The donors will not guide student admissions, faculty appointments, or research funding priorities,” he wrote in an email to The Varsity. As with all donations, to ensure that the donors’ intentions are respected, an advisory committee will be established by the faculty to monitor the use of the gift.

Some goals are specific

As U of T applies no administrative charges to gifts, the entirety of the $250 million will be directed toward the support of the gift’s goals. Headlining these is the establishment of a new Temerty Centre for AI Research and Education in Medicine. 

Another large expense will be the construction of the state-of-the-art James and Louise Temerty Building at the corner of King’s College Road and King’s College Circle, a renovation of the Faculty of Medicine’s west building.

The donation includes the $10 million gift that the Temertys already advanced in April, which established the Dean’s COVID-19 Priority Fund. Another fund, also to be created thanks to the donation, is the Dean’s Strategic Initiatives and Innovation Fund, which is aimed at investing in “star researchers,” new equipment, and open opportunities. 

Another planned fund will aim to support collaborations across the Toronto Academic Health Science Network, which encompasses the teaching and research hospitals in partnership with the university.

At its most specific, the donation will allow the university to procure a cryo-electron microscope, a powerful tool that can zoom in on proteinsʼ atomic structures, which can help the advancement of medicine.

Beyond the technical, the faculty will also recruit an elder-in-residence to bring Indigenous knowledge and experience to teaching in medicine. The position will be established alongside an Elders Circle to provide governance in alignment with Indigenous traditions and to advise the administration.

But others are more flexible

Young labelled the gift as a “mix of endowed and expendable funds.” 

“It also includes a mix of specifically designated and unrestricted funds, allowing for tremendous agility, flexibility and sustainability,” Young wrote.

More open-ended goals include enhancing the innovation and entrepreneurship activities of the Faculty of Medicine, amplifying Toronto’s reputation as a hub for health innovation, and accelerating research in specialized medical fields. Accordingly, the faculty will award more grants to promising researchers unable to access traditional funding.

“[The gift] was made by the donors as an investment in the Faculty of Medicine’s collective vision for its future, as articulated in our ambitious Academic Strategic Plan,” Young wrote. “Aligning with the objectives of the Strategic Plan, the gift will support the Faculty’s next century of impact through a focus on three main areas of support: discovery, collaboration and equity.” 

Young went on to add: “With investments allocated over a multi-year period, the Temerty family’s gift will have a tremendous impact on health science, health-care innovation and health education.”

Saving up for student success

U of T students will continue to hear of the historic nature of this donation for a long time to come. But how will they benefit from it?

To help lower barriers for students, a $20 million endowment will be set up for Doctor of Medicine student bursaries. According to Young, this will substantially increase the number of students receiving tuition support as well as the amount many will receive.

Additionally, funds from the donation will be directed toward the growth of equity programs undertaken by the university, such as the Black Student Application Program, Indigenous Student Application Program, and Community of Support Initiative. 

“The faculty will also be investing in learner wellness by developing a series of carefully considered initiatives and curriculum developments that will position Temerty Faculty of Medicine graduates to excel, such as personal counselling, wellness, and career planning programs, as well as specific supports and services that support equity, diversity, and inclusion of under-represented populations,” Young wrote.