Staying involved and giving back
January 31, 2023
Todd A. Durham, PhD ’16 (health policy and management), MS ’95 (biostatistics), and his wife, Heidi P. Durham, PharmD, are planning for the future. They’re not just thinking of themselves but also about family, their state and public health. They recently made a planned gift by donating an independent retirement account to the Gillings School to support priority initiatives under the discretion of the dean.
“We are pleased to contribute to the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, its future success and the improved health of the citizens of North Carolina and the world in this way.”
Todd is deeply connected to the Gillings School; as well as being an alum, he serves on the board of the UNC Gillings Public Health Foundation (PHF) — a 501(c)3 organization that manages the School’s endowments and charitable gifts. These experiences give him and Heidi confidence the value of their gift will be maximized in service of a healthier N.C.
The Durhams valued their time at UNC and wanted to give back to the institution that helped launch their careers. In addition to Todd’s service, they chose to make a planned gift to provide broad, enduring support to the Gillings School.
“Whatever success I’ve had professionally – which also translates to money in the bank and the ability to live a comfortable life – started with Gillings and an excellent education,” said Todd.
While many donors give to funds that are restricted to allow support only for a specific program or area of the School, the Durhams know from experience as students in multiple departments, and from Todd’s service on the Foundation board, that educating a world-class public health workforce requires support and contributions of many different types.
Their contribution to the PHF will provide flexibility to address current and emerging needs.
Because they can provide support for student, faculty or programmatic needs, unrestricted funds can be directed where they will make the greatest difference and can even amplify the impact of other gifts – existing scholarships or professorships that respond to specific needs. Unrestricted funds can be used to address a diverse array of needs, including retaining star faculty and staff and special projects that keep the School strong. They allow the dean to pivot in response to emerging needs and opportunities, from fostering collaboration across campus to upgrading facilities for pandemic safety.
“People invested in students like me, and it is very important to pay it forward,” said Todd. “We want to make sure the Gillings School is still successful and an attractive place for the next generation. Making a planned gift was the best way for us to make a big impact on that pool of unrestricted funds. Whether to attract students or deal with emergencies, I know it will be used well.”
His service on the board that manages those funds is part of the reason for Todd’s confidence. He describes his role on the Foundation’s Board of Directors as “a significant one.”
“We are in a role of providing responsible oversight of those funds and ensuring they’re used as well as carrying out accounting principles,” he said. “It’s important for any organization to have outside oversight, and that is one of the reasons people should have confidence giving large gifts to the Gillings School. By monitoring how the funds are directed, we’re helping ensure its faculty and staff are acting ethically and in the interest of the School. It’s about transparency and accountability.”
The depth of talent, public-focused mission and dedicated community that power the Gillings School make it uniquely fertile ground for those seeking to fuel positive change. In fact, Gillings faculty members have brought in an average of $1.09 million per faculty principal investigator in research awards. The Durhams’ investment will be measured in student and faculty success, thriving communities and a healthier world.
After earning a Master of Science degree in public health, Todd went into the contract research and pharmaceutical industry, working in statistical and leadership roles with Bristol Myers Squibb, Novan, Inspire Pharmaceuticals, Quintiles and IQVIA before pivoting to the nonprofit sector. As well as serving as vice president of clinical outcomes research at the Foundation Fighting Blindness, he volunteers as board president of the Affordable Community Residence Association, which provides affordable housing and supportive services to people with HIV and disabilities.
Todd is quick to acknowledge the ways in which the Gillings community has supported him along the way, pointing to mentorship he received as well as his current network that includes many other Gillings alums. He became involved again in the school when he was nominated to serve on the PHF Board – by none other than his college roommate, Todd A. Jones, JD, BSPH ’93 (health policy and management), former chair of the UNC Gillings Alumni Association Advisory Board.
“One thing that sets alums apart is having a vested interest and caring enough about the school to make sure it continues to support others the way it supported you,” said Durham. “One of the most important things I’ve learned is that support of the school doesn’t end when you finish paying tuition. They continue to need the funds to do the things great institutions do. And we need the involvement of alumni and others. It’s not just a place where you get a degree.”
Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at email@example.com.