by Craig Boerner

Dolly Parton is donating $1 million to pediatric infectious disease research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, another transformative gift aimed to help in the fight against serious infectious diseases such as coronavirus that have worldwide ramifications.

Ongoing research in the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases includes understanding how viruses and bacteria cause disease, understanding and preventing resistance to antibiotics, preventing and treating infections, diagnosing and treating infections in children with cancer and research to define the impact of childhood infections throughout the world.

“I love all children. No child should ever have to suffer, and I’m willing to do my part to try and keep as many of them as I can as healthy and safe as possible,” Parton said.

A legendary country music singer-songwriter, Parton made a previous $1 million gift to VUMC in April 2020 in honor of her longtime friend, Naji Abumrad, MD, professor of Surgery, to increase scientific knowledge and advance the battle against COVID-19 by supporting research teams working urgently to perfect treatments and cures.

VUMC’s researchers have tested an array of already existing drugs in urgent clinical trials aimed at reducing life-threatening symptoms associated with COVID-19 and focused on entirely new therapies that could effectively treat and prevent the infection.

“We are deeply honored by Dolly’s contribution to our research mission,” said Mark Denison, MD, professor of Pediatrics and director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. “For over 40 years our division has been a national and international leader in studies for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of life-threatening infections, and this gift will accelerate our work and support new ideas.”

Among Parton’s other gifts to VUMC was a transformational contribution to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt Pediatric Cancer Program in honor of Abumrad and her niece, Hannah Dennison, who was successfully treated for leukemia as a child at Children’s Hospital.

“Dolly’s previous support to infectious disease research, and also our pediatric cancer program, has already saved countless lives,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and CEO of VUMC and Dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “This new gift will bolster our defenses against future threats to the safety of this region and society as a whole. It speaks volumes about her passion for people, and we couldn’t be more thankful.”