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Generosity fosters transformational impact

Wednesday, March 24, 2021 - 16:36

In 2008, Patrick and Donna Nowlin, natives of Stoughton, WI., set up their donor advised fund, The Nowlin Family Directed Fund, as a way to honor their son, James, who lives with Diabetes.

After doing some research, the family decided to make a commitment to the juvenile diabetes research of Dr. Michael MacDonald, Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.

Making scientific strides

Thanks to the grant support provided by Nowlin family, for more than 10 years Dr. MacDonald has been able to hire multiple scientists to assist him in his research lab, with the objective to discover the root cause of Type 1 Diabetes and define ways to prevent, treat and/or cure the disease.

“This work has the capacity to be truly transformational,” says Jill Watson, Associate Vice President for Development at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. “[The Nowlin family’s] partnership in this effort has provided critical financial lab support for Dr. MacDonald’s research, so that he and his colleagues may pursue novel inquiry with the goal of altering and preventing this disease for future generations.”

Dr. MacDonald, who regularly publishes scientific papers on Diabetes for an international research audience, says that this philanthropic investment has enabled his lab to perform many novel studies over the years.

“Of all the projects I’ve been part of in my scientific career, this current project is the most exciting to me and, is by far the most likely to translate into a treatment that will prevent Type 1 Diabetes,” says Dr. MacDonald. “It’s consuming about 90 percent of my lab’s energy.”

Honoring Patrick’s legacy

Now 12 years since setting up their fund, Donna and her son James also approach their support to Dr. MacDonald as a way to celebrate Patrick’s legacy, who tragically passed away in an accident in 2017.

At the time of setting up their fund in 2008, Patrick said, “This means a lot to us because maybe they’ll have a cure in my son’s lifetime. And we know that once they break the code to Diabetes, it will lead to a lot of other cures, too. We’re just hoping we can do some good.”

Due to his planful nature and partnership with us, Patrick’s family will be able to continue the perpetual nature of supporting Dr. MacDonald’s research.

Fostering transformational impact
Currently, Dr. MacDonald and his team are studying diabetic mice to learn more about the environmental triggers that impact Type 1 Diabetes, in the hopes that they can discover a possible prevention of the disease. His team is excited because recent treatments have lowered the lifetime rate of diabetes in the mice from 80-90% to 20-30%. More research will tell whether these treatments can be eventually tested in children at high risk for developing Type 1 Diabetes.

“I have cared for children with diabetes and have been studying diabetes in children using a biochemical and genetic approach for over 40 years, and I love my work,” adds Dr. MacDonald. “Gifts like this from individuals are very special – they give me a boost and inspire me to work harder in my research.”

Photo 1: Dr. MacDonald in his lab. Photo courtesy of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Photo 2: Photo courtesy of the Nowlin family. Pictured, left to right: Donna, James and Patrick Nowlin.