Philanthropy and giving back have long been the cornerstone of Robert and Joan Epstein’s family life. Therefore, it was only natural that when a beloved long-time employee of Bob’s was diagnosed with ALS, he contacted Dr. Eva Feldman at U of M’s ALS Center of Excellence and inquired about clinical trials and other treatment alternatives. Later, when Bob learned that another of his employees had a gravely ill child in the hospital, he reached out to Dr. Feldman again and asked if she could help. After reviewing the child’s medical file with colleagues, Dr. Feldman arranged to have the patient transferred to U of M’s Mott’s Children Hospital, a move Bob and the child’s mother attribute to saving the child’s life. Still later, a beloved relative of Joan’s developed ALS, and, like Bob before her, Joan reached out to Dr. Feldman for help and wasn’t disappointed.
Bob is a self-employed businessman and Joan serves as an officer and member of numerous boards for not-for-profit organizations. Bob and Joan care deeply about their community and, in general, about others less fortunate than themselves. They give not for the recognition or notoriety that oftentimes accompany charitable contributions, but rather for the gratification they get from helping others. They ordinarily choose to remain anonymous, but in the present instance have decided to make an exception in the hope that news of their contribution to the Pranger ALS Clinic and the ALS Center of Excellence at Michigan Medicine will spur other philanthropists to make similar contributions and support the critically important work of Dr. Feldman and her team. “There are lots of causes that people can give to,” says Bob, “but none more important or more deserving than Dr. Feldman’s ALS research. It’s our sincere hope that our support of Dr. Feldman’s research and promising young ALS investigator, Dr. Benjamin Murdock, will lead to meaningful discoveries in ALS prevention and treatment and, hopefully, one day soon a cure.”
The Robert A. Epstein and Joan M. Chernoff-Epstein Emerging Scholar gift and the Robert A. Epstein and Joan M. Chernoff-Epstein Fund for Innovative Therapies were thus born. The chosen Emerging Scholar is Dr. Murdock, a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology. Dr. Murdock is investigating sex-based differences in the immune system of ALS patients, and the possibility of repurposing an approved immune therapy for the treatment of ALS patients.
Joan states “With our gift for an Emerging Scholar and our fund for ALS research, we hope to not only impact the people we know who are affected by this devastating disease, but also countless other people around the world suffering from this same malady. We have seen firsthand how this disease has taken its toll not only on our sick friends and relatives but their families as well. We hope our support of ALS research in general, and Dr. Feldman and Dr. Murdock in particular, will alleviate suffering and bring new hope for improved quality of life or even a cure for the tens of thousands of people suffering from this disease worldwide.”
Dr. Feldman states “Dr. Murdock, the entire staff of the Pranger ALS Clinic, the ALS Center of Excellence at Michigan Medicine, and the NeuroNetwork for Emerging Therapies, as well as myself personally, wish to express our profound gratitude for Bob and Joan Epstein’s gift. Their donation will support our investigations into several aspects of the causes of ALS and therapies to combat the disease, as well as assisting Dr. Murdock in continuing his career as a scientist in ALS research. And on a personal note, getting to know Bob and Joan, and the friendship that I have developed with them, has been very special to me.”