Founding Donor: WHH Foundation

Funding Brilliance, Energy and Commitment at San Francisco General Hospital

reprinted from Issue 5, Fall 2007 of Frontiers of Medicine (PDF)

Bernadette Glenn, Executive Director of the WHH Foundation

"As a philanthropist, there are few things as satisfying as giving to a group of really brilliant individuals who are doing their job superbly but who need funding," says Bernadette Glenn (pictured here). She is the executive director of the WHH Foundation, which recently gave a major gift to support the John F. Murray Distinguished Professorship in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at San Francisco General Hospital (SFGH).

"It's really clear that the need at San Francisco General is vast," says Glenn. "This gift serves the education of a whole new generation of doctors, as well as research, medicine, and the people who society often manages to ignore." Through its longstanding affiliation with UCSF, SFGH serves as a training ground for one of the top medical programs in the country.

The WHH Foundation's gift will allow the Chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine to spend less time writing grants, and more time researching, teaching and caring for patients. But Glenn also sees this gift as a vote of confidence in the whole staff of SFGH—and as a way to make a contribution on behalf of people who cannot afford to make a "grateful patient" donation themselves.

The Distinguished Professorship is named after John F. Murray, MD, who helped create the field of modern pulmonary medicine.

The WHH Foundation "Because San Francisco General is a public hospital that serves many people who have few resources, those patients aren't able to express their gratitude, at least financially," says Glenn. "That was a great moment for the WHH Foundation to say, this is something we can do on their behalf."

Many years ago, Glenn herself sought treatment for some minor ailments at SFGH when she was an uninsured student. "Having come from Ireland, you went to the doctor's office, which was often in his living room, and the mother was in the kitchen making tea," Glenn says. "It was a completely different experience, going to this huge place."

Years later, coming for a site visit, she talked about getting beyond the chaos of the crowded reception area and into the wards. "When you get into the place, you see the magic of what these people are doing," she says. "There was a sense of fabulous energy and great commitment. The ICU was impressive, especially knowing that John had helped set it up."

Glenn is Murray's daughter-in-law, and several board members are also Murray's children. But this gift had to be approved by the WHH Foundation's full board, many of whom are investment managers with their eyes on the bottom line. Murray's children and Glenn made the case for how this gift would help SFGH's excellent work continue for many decades. Their board colleagues were convinced, and voted to make this major gift—bringing the total raised for the Distinguished Professorship to more than $525,000 so far.

"There's a very important need for program and operational funding, but with an endowment, you feel like you've left behind something solid," says Glenn. "This money will be well invested, and available for a long time. It will be even more satisfying when other philanthropists step up and fully fund this Distinguished Professorship."

For more information about how you can contribute to the John F. Murray Distinguished Professorship or other positions, please contact Kristen Barbarics, Director of Development, (415) 476-5387 or via email at

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