Tadataka and Leslie Yamada

Development News

$10M Gift Will Fuel U-M Efforts to Improve the World’s Health

The gift from Tadataka and Leslie Yamada will fuel the new U-M Center for Global Health Equity.

BY KARA GAVIN

Winter 2020
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For decades, U-M teams have tackled some of the world’s toughest health challenges through research, education, and global partnership. Thanks to a new $10 million gift from Tadataka Yamada, M.D., and Leslie D. Yamada, those teams will now have new resources to think even bigger, work more effectively, and make a greater positive impact on the health and health care of people with the greatest need worldwide. 

The new U-M Center for Global Health Equity, currently in the planning stages, will accelerate work by U-M faculty, staff, and students to address inequities in health in the poorest nations and in disadvantaged populations in middle-income countries. 

“The University of Michigan’s public mission and excellence across many academic disciplines make us uniquely suited to address health inequities around the world,” says U-M President Mark Schlissel, M.D., Ph.D. “I applaud the Yamadas’ generosity in supporting the work of our faculty, students, and staff who will create long-term, global benefits through this new center.” 

The gift comes from a couple with strong U-M ties and an even stronger desire to offer health advances to people in developing countries. 

“A great challenge of our time is that millions, mostly children in the poorest countries, die each year unnecessarily from illnesses that can be prevented or treated,” the Yamadas write. U-M’s “outstanding faculty across a broad array of disciplines and culture of working together make it uniquely able to address the challenge. We hope that our gift will help to catalyze action that will make a meaningful contribution toward correcting this unacceptable inequity.” 

In 1983, Dr. Yamada became the chief of gastroenterology at the Medical School. In 1990, he rose to chair of the Department of Internal Medicine, leading hundreds of U-M physicians and the care of hundreds of thousands of patients. Since leaving U-M in 1996, he has worked in the pharmaceutical industry, as the chairman of research for GlaxoSmithKline and chief medical and scientific officer at Takeda Pharmaceuticals. He also spent five years leading the global health program for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and is now a venture partner with Frazier Healthcare Partners in Seattle. Leslie Yamada has a long record of work and volunteerism in social services and the arts. 

“The new center will amplify, not replace, the broad range of global health efforts already underway at the university,” says Marschall Runge, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president for medical affairs at U-M, CEO of Michigan Medicine, and dean of the Medical School. “We have so much strength already, and we hope this center will attract even more faculty and students who want to make a difference in global health and improve the equity of prevention, treatment, and outcomes around the world.” 

Building on the Yamadas’ vision, the new center’s initial concept was developed by a team led by Joseph Kolars, M.D., senior associate dean for education and global initiatives and director of the U-M Global REACH program, and John Z. Ayanian, M.D., M.P.P., who leads the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation and holds professorships in the Medical School, School of Public Health, and Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. 

F. DuBois Bowman, Ph.D., dean of the U-M School of Public Health, says, “Through increased partnership, this transformative gift has the opportunity to deeply impact the health and equity of the world’s most vulnerable populations.”