Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery

Robert and Patricia Kern Re-Engineer Health Care

  • Medicine & Health
  • 2017

When he was five years old and seriously ill, Robert Kern received charitable medical treatment at the Mayo Clinic—under a program for helping the children of religious workers like his father, a Baptist pastor. The child recovered, grew to be an engineer and inventor, and built his company making portable generators into a billion-dollar enterprise. Then he paid back the Mayo Clinic’s kindness. More generally, he began to apply his engineering instincts to upgrade medical education and care.

Robert and Patricia Kern donated $20 million to Mayo in 2011 to establish the Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery. It uses scientific assessments to improve the effectiveness, safety, and value of patient treatments, and then shares proven models with other doctors and hospitals around the country. The Kerns followed up with an additional grant of $67 million in 2013. This brought their total giving to the Mayo Clinic to $100 million (they have also supported neuroscience there).

Then in 2017 the Kerns made their latest gift aimed at re-engineering medical care for improved outcomes. They donated $38 million to the Medical College of Wisconsin to establish an institute that will coordinate a group of top medical schools as they explore new approaches for improving doctor training. For instance, the Medical College of Wisconsin (to which the Kerns had previously given $10 million) recently established new satellite campuses to school physicians who want to practice in rural areas and smaller cities that currently lack doctors, or go into specialties like primary care and psychiatry where there are occupational shortages. These refinements will benefit lots of Americans—including needy five-year-olds.

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