Milstein Family Foundation Endows Diabetes Research
For most people, a power outage or a broken bottle would be minor inconveniences. For Alene (Franklin) Lipshaw, they were nearly catastrophic. Raising her three children with type 1 diabetes (T1D) in the 1990s, she became an expert in testing and maintaining blood sugar. “I knew their dosages by heart,” says Lipshaw, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, resident who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from U-M. It was an unending task to keep her children safe; a mistake could land them in the emergency room, or worse.
Once, when her son James had the flu, his endocrinologist wanted him to be awakened and tested every two hours. “I set the alarm,” Lipshaw says, “but our power went out that night.” By the time she woke up, James’ ketones were very high, and he was in bad shape. “We managed, but it was scary.”
In 1993, Lipshaw and her husband took their eldest child, Arielle, with them to a wedding in Milwaukee. “We couldn’t leave her home,” says Lipshaw. “She was nine, and no one besides us knew how to give her the shots.” They sent her insulin to the hotel kitchen for refrigeration, not realizing at the time that it could stay unrefrigerated for up to a month. “We got a call in the middle of the night that the bottle had broken.” They spent the morning making calls to the doctor, a pharmacy, and their insurance company to try and get a new bottle. “Lesson learned. Always bring an extra.”
Lipshaw’s children are not alone. More than 1.25 million Americans have T1D, according to the American Diabetes Association. “Nobody on either side of our family had a history of diabetes, so it was a mystery,” says Lipshaw. “It’s unknown exactly why anyone develops type 1 diabetes.”
When Lipshaw and her husband, Jeff (also a U-M alumnus), had the opportunity to make an impact on diabetes research and treatment, they turned to U-M and Eva Feldman (M.D. 1983, Ph.D. 1979), the Russell N. DeJong Professor of Neurology. Feldman’s daughter had played softball and gone to elementary school with Arielle back in the 1990s. Alene and Jeff were exploring where they wanted to donate, and they discovered Feldman was making great strides in diabetes research and was working with JDRF (formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation). “We knew we had found our match.”
Alene’s grandparents, Rose and Nathan Milstein, made it possible for her to donate to Michigan Medicine. The Milsteins lived into their 90s and were a loving, hardworking couple that saved diligently for decades. After Rose died, Lipshaw and the Milstein’s other five grandchildren used a bequest from their grandparents to establish the Rose C and Nathan L Milstein Family Foundation. “My grandparents’ philanthropic vision was to improve public health care through research and education,” says Lipshaw.
Since 2000, the foundation has supported diabetes research at Michigan Medicine. As that research has matured, it has received greater support from government sources, such as the National Institutes of Health. In 2019, the Milstein endowment surpassed $500,000, and the Rose C. and Nathan L. Milstein Family Emerging Scholar Fund was established at Michigan Medicine. The endowment provides funding for a junior faculty member investigating diabetes in Feldman’s laboratory. Stephanie Eid, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Neurology, is the first recipient.
“Our family is so proud to have achieved this goal,” says Lipshaw. In addition to Lipshaw and her husband, her grandfather (Joseph Fineman), her father (Gilbert Franklin), her aunt (Lois Dorfman), her three siblings (Jon, Denise, and Pamela), her sister Denise’s husband, and his three brothers also graduated from U-M. “My son, Matthew (B.S. 2009, M.D. 2013), is a fourth-generation U-M graduate.”
“We are deeply appreciative for the vision shown by Alene, Jeff, and their entire family to expand diabetes research,” says Feldman. “Since we began working together, we have seen significant advancements in our understanding of diabetes and its complications. The Milsteins’ donations have played a major role in our advances. The creation of the new Milstein Family Emerging Scholar Fund will allow us to attract young scientists who will devote their scientific careers to continuing to unlock the mystery of diabetes.”