Deitch gift targets early diagnosis and prevention.

Deitch gift targets early diagnosis and prevention.

When Joseph Deitch met Mother Teresa during a business trip to India two decades ago, something she said then really struck him. “If you have money, don’t let it sit in the bank and do nothing,” she told him and his associates. “Put it to work.”

“That always stuck with me,” said Deitch, founder and chair of the Commonwealth Financial Network and creator of the Elevate Prize Foundation. “I knew when the time came, I would.”

This year, as part of a plan to give away 90% of his wealth during his lifetime (the flip of tithing), Deitch gave a total of $3 million to Dana-Farber to help establish the Centers for Early Detection and Interception, and to advance the Institute’s Presidential Initiatives Fund.

“Cancer touches all of us, and I’m not sure I know another institution that is so universally beloved as Dana-Farber,” said Deitch, who lost his wife, Robbie Lacritz Deitch, to ovarian cancer in 2006.

The goal of the planned Centers for Early Detection and Interception, which is a top priority of The Dana-Farber Campaign, will be to leverage genetic testing and new knowledge about premalignant states to prevent or diagnose cancer in people who are at high risk based on their own history or that of family members.

“Typically, by the time people are referred to Dana-Farber, they have symptoms of cancer,” said Benjamin Ebert, MD, PhD, chair of Medical Oncology and the George P. Canellos, MD, and Jean S. Canellos Professor of Medicine. “By being proactive and detecting the disease in its earliest stages, we can achieve better outcomes for our patients.”

Deitch explained that his approach to philanthropy is “to find the institutions that I want to support, meet with their senior people, and, if I believe in the institution and trust their senior people, let them decide where the money can be best put to work. Who’s going to know more about what’s needed and where the money can best be deployed?”

That thinking led him to direct part of his gift to the Institute’s Presidential Initiatives Fund, which provides flexible resources for Dana-Farber President and CEO Laurie H. Glimcher, MD, to invest in the Institute’s greatest priorities. It provides vital support for strategic new initiatives and high-risk, high-reward research that doesn’t qualify for traditional grant funding and helps in recruiting and retaining the very best physician-scientists.

“Joe’s gift is an amazing vote of confidence in the people and promise of Dana-Farber, and we are most grateful,” said Glimcher, who is also the Richard and Susan Smith Professor of Medicine. “His generosity will have a lasting impact.”

For more stories about the impact of philanthropy at Dana-Farber, please visit

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