The Smith Family Foundation is committed to supporting the advancement of biomedical research and to expanding access to high-quality health care at safety net institutions serving low-income individuals and communities of Greater Boston. The Foundation focuses its biomedical science funding on grants to cutting-edge research groups and newly independent researchers at our region’s world-class academic, medical, and research institutions to support their efforts to combat disease and spur medical breakthroughs. At the same time, the Foundation seeks to improve health of all Greater Boston communities through grant support to select local community health centers and community health providers.
Smith Family Awards Program for Excellence in Biomedical Research
This grant program in biomedical research seeks to identify and support promising researchers early in their careers as they work to find breakthroughs in such areas as AIDS/HIV, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or neuroscience. Administered by The Medical Foundation, a division of Health Resources in Action, the program provides five to seven $300,000, three-year grants ($100,000 per year) annually to allow early-career researchers to focus on their scientific research before they may be eligible for major federal grant support. Since 1992, 149 scientists have been funded under this program and $28.7 million has been awarded in grants. Applicants must be nominated by their institutions. For more information on this program and how to apply, please visit the Medical Foundation’s website.
FOOD ALLERGY SCIENCE INITIATIVE (2016-2020)
Researchers from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, its partner institutions, and Yale School of Medicine are launching an initiative to tackle the science of food allergies, a growing public health threat that affects the lives of hundreds of millions worldwide. The Food Allergy Science Initiative (FASI), which will be centered at the Broad, will tap the combined resources of participating academic and research institutions to help answer key scientific questions surrounding food allergies, the causes of which remain little-understood. The Foundation has made a $3 million commitment to support this work.
FASI aims to accelerate the pace of discovery in this field and enable the development of new diagnostics and treatments through a coordinated effort that brings together specialists from a variety of disciplines including immunology, gastroenterology, computational biology, molecular biology, and bioengineering to answer fundamental questions pertaining to food allergy. These include:
• How do cells in the immune system and gastrointestinal track sense allergens?
• What triggers the allergic response?
• Why do some people show evidence of an allergic immune response and yet are not clinically reactive?
• What are the environmental factors that explain the rise in food allergy prevalence in recent decades?
• What genetic factors might be at play?
FASI will benefit from the unique structure of the Broad, which draws on the expertise of researchers in the Boston–Cambridge community and beyond to build teams that cut across disciplines, share data, and develop and advance enabling technologies to gain new insights into the basic biology of disease.
TEAM UP FOR CHILDREN INITIATIVE (2015-2019)
The Foundation’s TEAM UP (Transforming and Expanding Access to Mental Health in Urban Pediatrics) for Children initiative seeks to build the capacity of local community health centers (CHCs) to meet children’s mental health needs through a 4-year initiative to design and test a state-of-the-art model of fully integrated pediatric health care. By strengthening the ability of CHCs to recognize emerging child mental illness and intervene early with cutting-edge treatment, to be provided, in most cases, within the walls of the health center, the Foundation aims to improve life outcomes for tens of thousands of low-income children in Greater Boston and Gateway Cities.
Specifically, it is anticipated that up to $10 million in Foundation grant funds will be used to:
• Support three CHCs (Codman Square Health Center, The Health Center at Dimock, and Lowell Community Health Center) to become models of how to provide fully-integrated evidence-based mental health care to children within a primary care setting;
• Partner with Boston Medical Center to train all pediatric-serving health center PCPs and clinical staff in the partner CHCs to recognize risk factors and systematically screen for emerging child mental illness, engage families in the mental health assessment and treatment process, guide patients and families in the implementation of self-management techniques, and provide safe and effective medication treatment, as appropriate;
• Integrate needed mental health therapists and care coordinators into existing care teams in the partner CHCs to extend each CHC’s capacity to provide prevention and psychotherapeutic treatment to children with, or at risk of developing, mental illness, and to provide resource support for their families;
• Provide pediatric-serving heath center PCPs, medical residents, and other medical staff with rapid, specialized consultation with child and adolescent psychiatrists for complicated cases;
• Provide guidance and coaching to achieve a fully integrated mental health care model within the partner CHCs; and
• Partner with Boston University School of Medicine to collect real-time cost and quality outcomes in support of continuous quality improvement, project monitoring, and broad dissemination of findings.
Success will be measured in the increased capacity of the partner CHCs to recognize and treat those at risk for or experiencing childhood mental illness, reduced burden of mental illness on children and their families, improved health and school outcomes, reduced related system costs, greater parental satisfaction with access to and quality of mental health care, increased pediatric clinical staff mental health-related knowledge, confidence, and practice change, and achievement of a fully integrated pediatric behavioral health care model. The findings from the TEAM UP for Children initiative are anticipated to provide a detailed roadmap on pediatric integrated care for providers, payers, policymakers, professional organizations, and other key stakeholders.
Smith-Fireman Diabetes Initiative (2006-2011)
From 2006 to 2011, the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation and the Paul and Phyllis Fireman Charitable Foundation provided support to five Boston community health centers (Bowdoin Street Health Center, Codman Square Health Center, Dorchester House Multi-Service Center, Mattapan Community Health Center, and Whittier Street Health Center) to enhance their diabetes management programs. With $5.3 million in funding from the Smith Family Foundation, $1.5 million from the Fireman Charitable Foundation, and technical assistance from the Joslin Diabetes Center, the centers provided disease management education, nutrition and lifestyle counseling, and wellness activities to their patients through the use of group medical visits, community health outreach, nurse case management, and other support services.
The primary goal of this initiative was to improve health outcomes for persons with diabetes by expanding access to high-quality, culturally competent, patient-centered diabetes care. A secondary goal was to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of various interventions, such that a case could be made for obtaining more adequate reimbursement for these services by third party payers. The initiative reached 5,200 patients at the five centers.
The Foundation engaged a well-respected independent evaluator, RTI International, to track health outcomes, patient satisfaction, and cost-effectiveness. RTI found that diabetes-related health outcomes improved across the five centers over the five-year period. Patient satisfaction also increased across the centers and the initiative was found to be cost-effective. RTI also found that as the number of diabetes patients at the health centers continued to grow, the health centers improved their efficiency and acted as “best value” providers.
The Smith Family Foundation was awarded the 2011 Mayoral Prize for Innovations in Primary Care in the “Innovations in Philanthropic Investments” category for this initiative.
Community Health Center Capital Projects (2010-2013)
The Smith Family Foundation has contributed to a number of community health center building campaigns aimed at helping these centers expand to serve more patients and provide state-of-the-art primary care. Local health centers have seen their patient rolls expand rapidly in the wake of Massachusetts’ health care reforms. The Foundation sees these providers as crucial to the State’s ability to deliver on the promise of high-quality, affordable health care for all through better prevention and chronic disease management. Grants in this area are by invitation only.