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Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA’s ‘Giving Circle’ Supports Pediatric Physician Scientists’ Innovative Research

A total of $210,000 was awarded to three pediatric physician-scientists—holding checks (from left): Drs. Katherine Wesseling-Perry, Elizabeth Marcus and Kalpashri Kesavan—at the circle’s, known as the Today’s and Tomorrow’s Children Fund, Faculty Presentations and Awards Day at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA. Photo by Don Ponturo

Posted: Monday, June 27, 2016 – 2:30 PM

Many physician-scientists have ideas for research that could lead to new treatments or cures for patients they treat. But getting federal funding to support that research isn’t always easy.

But a “giving circle” at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA is making an impact. It offers pediatric physician-scientists the opportunity to pitch their ideas, win grants and change young lives.

The circle, officially known as the Today’s and Tomorrow’s Children’s Fund (TTCF), is made up of community members interested in medical research, who each year pool their donations of $5,000 per person. Members listen to presentations by doctors and then select how to distribute the funds among the grantee or grantees. Members , who like the idea of supporting a specific cause, come from a variety of backgrounds; and most join because they want to do something more than just write a check. 

 “TTCF is an innovative way for the community to embrace the work of our pediatric subspecialty physician researchers and actively participate in the exciting process of advancing science,” said Dr. Sherin Devaskar, professor of pediatrics, executive chair of the department of pediatrics and physician-in-chief at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA.

“TTCF is hands-on, powerful and rewarding,” said Glenn Bozarth, a member since 2009. “We vote based on competitive presentations and help bright young research doctors get the start they need. Our funding often helps launch their careers and provide seed funding for research that will later qualify for significantly larger grants, resulting in huge advances benefiting children all around the world.“

• This year, Dr. Elizabeth Marcus, a pediatric gastroenterologist, won the grand prize. TTCF awarded her $90,000 to further her research on bacteria called Helicobacter pylori that causes stomach ulcers in kids.

Dr. Kalpashri Kesavan,  a neonatologist and Dr. Katherine Wesseling-Perry, a pediatric nephrologist, tied for second place, each receiving $60,000.

• Kesavan’s research uses a vibration device to correct breathing pauses in premature infants.

• Perry is studying the effects of kidney disease on bone and heart health in children.

TTCF was created in 2006 and so far, the group has donated a total of $2.4 million to 25 projects at the UCLA Children’s Discovery and Innovation Institute.

Pediatric cancer specialist Dr. Noah Federman, who received $135,000 in 2009, vouches for the significance of group giving.

“TTCF helped me pursue research in finding new therapies to treat rare bone and soft tissue cancers in children,” said Federman, an associate professor in the department of pediatrics and orthopaedics. “As a result, we are now one of the lead sites in a targeted therapy trial to treat a highly aggressive and often fatal cancer called Ewing Sarcoma. Without a doubt we would not be positioned to run this trial without a track record supported by TTCF.”

Want to join? Annual membership is $5,000. New members can join for an introductory contribution of $2,500.

For more information, contact Danielle Dietz, assistant director of external relations at Mattel Children’s Hospital, at 310-794-4431 or


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