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When spinal cord injury therapy didn’t arrive, investor turned to medical philanthropy

When Dennis Chan injured his spinal cord in a car accident 11 years ago, he was devastated. But he had hope for the future.

“At that time, I thought the government would fund a lot of spinal cord injury research," Chan said in a story for Why Giving Matters by Stanford Medical Center Development. "I thought if I kept myself fit, I would wait for the day when the cure would come and I would be all healed and I would be able to walk again.”

Chan waited, but the breakthrough he was hoping for didn't come. Instead of losing heart, he decided to find out why more progress wasn't being made. Chan, a computer scientist with a degree from Stanford's School of Engineering who is now an investor, decided to conduct his own investigation of spinal cord research.

What he learned surprised him, Chan said. He found that there was no shortage of medical institutions with spinal cord injury research programs, but the bottleneck was funding — the researchers needed additional money to make headway in the field.

After learning more about the different research programs, Chan decided to make a donation to the Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. He explained:

Stanford brings together the world’s brightest minds from different fields to focus on specific problems. You put that kind of brain firepower to concentrate on one area, and you will get results.

Chan's interest lies in spinal cord research — such as the work of Giles Plant, PhD, at left in the photo above, who directs basic science for the Stanford Partnership for Spinal Cord Injury and Repair —  but he encourages people to support medical research in any field. "It’s going to affect each one of us," he said. "It’s going to make life better for everyone."

Previously: What’s your (stem cell) resolution?Infant at Stanford first to get drug for deadly neurodegenerative disease and “The Secret Life” of Stanford Medicine alum Cheri Blauwet
Photo of Giles Plant and Dennis Chan courtesy of Stanford’s Medical Center Development

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