WAB Family Fund
Walter A. Brown and Christine E. Ryan, both formerly full-time faculty members at Brown Medical School, are at the Rhode Island Foundation today “because we had some unexpected assets” says Walter, a semi-retired psychiatrist and professor emeritus. “We talked for a couple of years about doing something with the funds—Chris knew more about the Foundation than I did and encouraged me to participate.”
“It’s always hard to figure out who and what to give to,” says Christine, a retired research faculty who worked at Butler and Rhode Island Hospitals. “I said let’s keep talking to the Foundation—they know what they are doing and there’s no pressure.”
“I am a first generation American,” says Walter. “This is a great country but given all the resources, I find it very troublesome that people can’t afford healthcare, don’t have enough money to feed their families, and cannot find a decent place to live.” Walter thinks it is the role of the government rather than private philanthropy to help. “But it’s not happening when left to the government.”
Meaningful goals and evidence-based outcomes are important to Walter and Christine. After meeting with Zach Nieder, the Foundation’s senior strategic initiative officer for health care, they partnered with the Foundation to co-fund a Lifespan initiative that will put doctors on the streets. “The program is a good match with our interests,” says Walter. Street Medicine aligns with our work both in access to primary care and in harm reduction—it facilitates the direct provision of health care to the unsheltered homeless. Homeless men and women have life spans nearly 30 years shorter than their housed counterparts and less than 10% have a primary care clinician.
“The Rhode Island Foundation can work faster than the normal bureaucracy. They can redirect funds as needed and they keep the bigger picture in focus. They have a ‘let’s get it done approach’ to finding out what works and what doesn’t.”
“The Rhode Island Foundation can work faster than the normal bureaucracy,” says Christine. “They can redirect funds as needed and they keep the bigger picture in focus. They have a ‘let’s get it done approach’ to finding out what works and what doesn’t.”
Walter and Christine make their home in Tiverton, where Christine has been involved with the Tiverton Land Trust, Town Council, and Library. Walter teaches at Brown, does research and a good deal of writing, and is an amateur musician, playing clarinet in the Rhode Island Wind Ensemble.
“If you want to give money away, it’s not always easy to find an organization that you are comfortable with,” says Walter. “Rhode Island Foundation is that comfortable organization.”