The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a $1 million endowment from the Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation to support spinal cord injury research and establish The Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation Laboratories.
The foundation has donated thousands of dollars to spinal cord injury research to the Medical College over the years, but this is the first time an endowment has been established, which will allow more scientific research, said Dr. Dennis Maiman, professor and chairman of neurosurgery at the Medical College.
“Endowment money is very humbling,” Maiman said. “It shows that they have a certain amount of trust in our scientific research. This gives us a lot more freedom for investigation and essentially makes us partners in research.”
Riesch, of Waukesha, was a 19-year-old freshman at Marquette University when he dove onto a slip-and-slide mat and suffered a bruised spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed below the middle of his chest.
To date, the foundation has raised more than $1.5 million for research, scholarships and community grants. The organization has provided support to multiple, nationally recognized research facilities including the Medical College, where spinal cord injury investigators have earned foundation grants for the past eight years.
Spinal cord injury affects more than 12,000 Americans annually, and health care for those individuals exceeds $6 billion.
“My one dream, just like so many other people who suffer from the effects of paralysis, is to walk again,” Riesch said in a statement. “Raising money for research is the one way I can help make that happen.”
The establishment of The Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation Endowment complements recent investments by the College and the Zablocki VA Medical Center in research infrastructure surrounding spinal cord injury. A $3.7 million neurosurgery research facility was dedicated in April 2009 on the grounds of the VA.
Construction began in November 2009 on a $26.9 million, federally funded spinal cord injury center for patient care at the VA that when completed will become a state-of-the-art facility for clinical research.