Katherine Upchurch MD ’76: The Multiplier Effect of Gifts to Duke

March 14, 2015
Picture of Katherine Upchurch

Clinical Chief, Division of Rheumatology
University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center

  • 2015 New England Arthritis Foundation Marion Ropes Award Winner for “Excellence in Arthritis Care and Leadership”
  • Successfully solicited $1.5 million for Divisional support

Professional Volunteer Service:
ACR Rheum PAC (Political Action Committee)
Mass Medical Society and Alliance Charitable Foundation Board of Directors (Co-Chair)
Medical Alumni Volunteer Expert Network (MAVEN) Project Founding Volunteer

Duke volunteer leadership:
Medical Alumni Council (President-elect)
Duke Women’s Impact Network Leadership Council

Family: Husband Ronald Takvorian; children Sam, Kate, and Sarah (’10) Takvorian

Who modeled philanthropy for you?
The simple answer is my mother. Her family historically was generous in supporting causes that were personally important to them, but my mother broadened for me the definition of philanthropy. For her, philanthropy not only consisted of giving financial support, but also volunteering ideas, commitment, and time. She epitomized the philosophy that, over and above dollars, energy, leadership, and enthusiasm multiply the effects of those dollars and inspire others.

How do you view the connection between volunteer service and financial support of an organization?  
Volunteer service gives volunteers a current view of the organization. Volunteers may have a nostalgic memory of the past, but it seems to me critical that they learn about the “NOW” of the institution they are supporting. There is no better way to accomplish that goal than becoming engaged on the “inside.” Being a volunteer gives one a lens through which to directly visualize the need, how supporting the need will move the institution forward, and the institutional “players” who will support the process. Finally, volunteer service allows volunteers to interact with each other, an important source of inspiration and energy for everyone.

Why do you support Duke, and how do you decide what areas to support?
All of us are approached by organizations for financial and volunteer support. I have supported all of the educational institutions I have attended, but of these, Duke has the greatest likelihood to have the highest impact, through both its undergraduate and, for me, medical schools. No matter the size of my gift, I feel confident that the dollars that I give to Duke will indirectly or directly improve the world in ways that I can only imagine. I may provide scholarship money at Trinity or Duke Medical School to students who will go on to solve world crises in poverty or health, and who may not have had the opportunity otherwise to develop their skills or talents. Because that is what Duke is about.

What is your greatest hope for Duke?
I hope that Duke can continue to nurture the concept of cross-disciplinary collaboration in the quest to solve critical local, national, and global problems. This innovative approach, when coupled with “outrageous ambitions,” will lead to successes that could not be achieved in other ways.