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San Diego Philanthropist Makes Major Donation to UCSD for New Foundation

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San Diego philanthropist, Denny Sanford made a major gift donation to UC San Diego for a rather unique area of study: research into the biology of compassion. The donation, totaling in excess of $100 million, will aim to help provide medical students the resources necessary to better study empathy, in hopes of cultivating the future physicians of this country with such qualities. 

The gift is among the largest of its kind ever made in the US, and supports a specialized topic that has recently gained more traction since having the tools necessary to properly measure and explore it properly. The donation will go towards funding the T. Denny Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion, which among other things, will also help address burnout in physicians and medical students. 

The study of empathy and compassion has been ongoing for years, but now, researchers have tools like functional MRI and the EEG, which allows us to understand the inner-workings of the brain in ways we have never been able to before. Through the research conducted with this new foundation, researchers hope to gain a greater understanding of these characteristics and how we may use them more effectively in future medical care. 

“I have had the opportunity to see how grace, humanity and kindness can change people and the world. This gift extends that vision. Doctors work in a world where compassion is essential, but often lost in the harsh realities of modern medicine. If we can help medical professionals preserve and promote their compassion, based on the findings of hard science, the world can be a happier, healthier place,”

Denny Sanford said in a UCSD statement

The donation was inspired by Sanford’s private meeting with the Dalai Lama during his visit to the university’s campus back in 2017. This isn’t the first time Sanford has donated to San Diego-based institutions either. Over the past 12-years, he has donated more than $450 million to a variety of foundations, including the Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center at UCSD and the San Diego Zoo Children’s Zoo. 

According to Forbes, Sanford has an estimated net worth of $2.2 billion. He plans to give away the entirety of his fortune during his life, adopting the growing trend of sunset philanthropy. He has since donated more than $1 billion. 

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