Nov. 18, 2021
A year ago, Tim Ubben had never set foot on a USF campus. The retired investment firm founder lived seasonally in Naples, Florida, where he was a patient of Yale-trained pulmonologist Dr. Jose D. Herazo-Maya.
Diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis (PF), Ubben wasn’t satisfied with the number of available treatment options. He explored the medical research and discussed the various clinical trials with Herazo, developing a friendship as they shared ideas for improving care for patients living with severely scarred lungs.
Then, Herazo was approached to serve as USF Health’s new associate chief of research for pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine. The opportunity would allow Herazo to start his own PF studies.
Ubben saw Herazo’s move as an opening to make a direct impact on the future of PF patient care. The philanthropist, who served as a board leader and benefactor of several nonprofit organizations, said he would help his doctor launch new research on the condition.
Before Herazo’s first day on the job, Ubben had already made a $1 million gift to USF Health.
USF Health’s translational “bench to bedside” approach to medical research should speed the application of discoveries made by physician-scientists, including Herazo, to help patients.
“We are delighted with this confluence of vision, talent and philanthropy,” said Dr. Charles Lockwood, USF Health senior vice president and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine. “The timing of Mr. Ubben’s gift is helping us to rapidly launch this important research to fight devastating lung conditions.”
“I have been discouraged in the lack of progress in alleviating pulmonary fibrosis in patients — that is why I made the gift,” said Ubben. “This funding will support research to better understand and fight this disease. I probably won’t be around to benefit from the results of Herazo’s research, but hopefully other pulmonary fibrosis patients will.
Ubben’s gift now supports equipment for the Ubben Family Pulmonary Research Laboratory and the scientists and biostatisticians who work there.
“Certain patients with lung scarring can live well for years, while others deteriorate and die quickly,” said Herazo. His team is working to develop a blood test based on gene expression that will help identify patients at risk of severe pulmonary fibrosis before it’s too late. Since PF is one of the most severe complications of COVID-19, these research outcomes could benefit even more patients.”
For Ubben and his wife, Sharon, their goal is to make their greatest impact on the world while they’re here to see it.
“We believe in giving while living,” said Ubben. “We hope to exhaust our resources for the purpose of bettering mankind in some way by the time we pass away.”
Beneath Ubben’s serious commitment belies a humble sense of humor. “While it probably won’t happen this way, we would love it if the last check we wrote was to an undertaker … and it bounced.