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Wilson Foundation Gives $500,000 To General Pediatrics

Joseph Wilson

Joseph Wilson, co-chair of
the Wilson Foundation

Inspired by the generosity and legacy of its founders, Joseph C. Wilson ’31 and Peggy Wilson, the Wilson Foundation has awarded $500,000 to establish The Wilson Community Pediatrics Fund in the Division of General Pediatrics at UR Medicine’s Golisano Children’s Hospital.  This special gift to The Meliora Challenge: The Campaign for the University of Rochester will allow the division unparalleled opportunity to advance and accelerate projects on behalf of our region's most needy children and families.   

“Our work is all preventive. Some improves care in the short term, but a lot will improve quality and save costs long-term,” said Peter Szilagyi, M.D., M.P.H., chief of the Division of General Pediatrics. “This gift will allow us to add resources to existing programs and to enter new programs, and we will leverage it to try and bring in a lot more.”

The Wilson Foundation has a long history of philanthropy on behalf of vulnerable families, and the Wilson family has an even longer history of contribution and support to the University of Rochester. Joseph C. Wilson, founder and former chairman of the Xerox Corporation, chaired the University’s $38 Million Campaign in the 1960s, and his wife, Peggy, later sat on the UR Board and worked through the family’s foundation to advance their shared, humane vision. 

The recently-announced gift is the Foundation’s largest-ever grant to the University. Spurred by recent studies which have shown that Rochester is the fifth-poorest city in the nation — a city with 46 percent of its children living below the poverty line — the Wilson Foundation began searching for a way to put a dent in the depressing statistics. The Division of General Pediatrics, which targets low-income city residents with virtually all of its programs, seemed an ideal fit with the Foundation's mission.

Megan Bell

Megan Bell, executive director
of the Wilson Foundation

“We at the Foundation all felt it was important to be a part of the University of Rochester’s campaign, knowing how important the University is to the community,” said Joseph Wilson, grandson of Joseph C. (’31) and Peggy Wilson, and board co-chair of the Wilson Foundation. “Obviously my grandfather saw that importance when he chaired the campaign in the late sixties.  And the spirit and mission of the Wilson Foundation couldn’t be better exemplified than by the work of the Division of General Pediatrics, with its programs to benefit children living in poverty.  Especially given the recent grave statistics we’ve seen showing poverty on the rise in our area, the daily efforts of Dr. Szilagyi and those in the Division strongly appealed to us as deserving support.”

“The work that the department is doing to help underserved and underprivileged members of the community is right in line with what the Foundation is doing in terms of its commitment to families,” said Megan Bell, executive director of the Wilson Foundation.

Among the programs housed within the Division of General Pediatrics is a city-wide immunization delivery team that is recognized as the field’s top group in the country. Immunization delivery is tied in to a primary care outreach program which serves more than 5,000 children and adolescents annually and has virtually eliminated pre-existing disparities between city and suburban immunization rates.

The division also runs a preventive care program for urban children with asthma, which is closely linked with the Rochester City School system and has demonstrably improved asthma outcomes. Still another initiative provides inner-city 9-12 year olds after-school educational enrichment, recreational, and/or service programming as well as offering the evidence-based “Family Talk” program to their parents. And doctors within the division have also been pioneers in the field of telemedicine, providing 13,000 visits over the past decade to Rochester children who otherwise may not have received care.

Peter Szilagyi

Peter Szilagyi, chief of the
Division of General Pediatrics

“The common thread for many of our programs is that we’re working out in the community, not in the walls of the hospital, because that’s where the kids are,” said Szilagyi. “So we’re partnering with schools, social services, mental health agencies, community-based practices, and community organizations to provide these preventive services.”

The Wilson Foundation has supported several initiatives within the Division of General Pediatrics before, including telemedicine and foster care programs. Their most recent gift will be guided by an advisory committee that works with Szilagyi to ensure that the funds are being put toward programs that helps Rochester’s neediest children.

“Peter is such a down-to-earth guy that you wouldn’t necessarily perceive how brilliant he is because he speaks in such real terms,” said Bell. “He cares so much about the population his division is serving, and his passion speaks volumes.”