Mary Jane Deere Wiman Brinton was watching news coverage of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster one evening with her son Bill when she turned to him and said, “I want to do something down there. I want to make a donation to help those people.”
The Brintons, long known for their extensive philanthropic support of health care, mental health and education in California, had no real previous connection with New Orleans or Louisiana. So Mrs. Brinton, 88, dispatched Bill and his wife Gerry from San Francisco to the Crescent City, where they talked to 18 organizations to find the best place to make a difference.
The result: a $1.9 million gift to the Tulane University Community Health Centers, to help provide primary care to low-income members of the community and hands-on experience for physicians and others who are training to work in healthcare careers. In addition, part of the Brinton gift will help develop a model, replicable community health and nutrition education program.
“The Brinton family’s vision for helping the New Orleans community was perfectly aligned with Tulane’s commitment to public service,” says Yvette Jones, executive vice president for university relations and development at Tulane.
“This extraordinary gift will touch the daily lives of thousands in our community by enabling us to provide expanded high quality services and access to new health education and nutrition programs. We are grateful to Mrs. Brinton and her family for being our partner in this exciting new initiative.”
Nine community health centers, including four mobile units, offer neighborhood-based primary and behavioral health care to 18,000 individuals. The centers provide approximately 2,000 patient-visits per month. Although most clients come from working families, about two-thirds of the patients are uninsured. All are seen regardless of their ability to pay; most contribute through a sliding fee scale. Most of the adults are overweight or obese, and the majority manage some chronic disease.
“We wanted an organization with a vested interest in the future of the community that could execute a plan with a high degree of success and have an impact on a lot of people reasonably quickly,” says Bill Brinton.
“We think we picked the right people. Tulane met all the tests—we certainly gave a lot of them—and came out with straight A’s on all fronts.”
When Mary Jane Brinton sent Bill and Gerry to New Orleans, she knew time was of the essence. “Because it was August and hurricane season, I asked her if we could do the visit a little later,” he says. “She told me that if we couldn’t do it then, she’d find someone who could.”
Mary Jane Brinton died in San Francisco in November of 2010, shortly after the gift was finalized. “She kept saying how proud she was of the gift to Tulane,” her son adds. “She knew it would help a lot of people.”
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