5 Questions with Heather Culp, Chief Philanthropy Officer for UMSOM and UMMC

Heather S. Culp, JD, returned to the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) in February in the newly created role of senior vice president and chief philanthropy officer for both the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) and the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC).

Culp will provide strategic guidance and vision for the fundraising efforts of UMSOM, the UMMC downtown and Midtown campuses, and the University of Maryland Rehabilitation and Orthopaedic Institute, working to build on their shared commitment to accelerate the pace of discovery and improve the delivery of patient-centered care for communities across Baltimore, Maryland, and the region.

She will oversee advancement teams at UMMC and UMSOM, allowing them to work more seamlessly together to tailor opportunities for transformative giving and ensure full impact to education, patient care, research, and health care facilities.

Culp, who earned her law degree from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, returns to UMB after recently serving as executive director of development for The Fund for Johns Hopkins Medicine, leading fundraising for the Department of Neurology and Brain Sciences. She previously worked in fundraising at Maryland Carey Law and Washington College.

CATALYST magazine asked Culp five questions to learn more about her and her new role.

What does it mean to you to be working at an institution where fundraising will help advance innovation and discovery as well as medical education and training and patient care?

It is a privilege to be the first person hired into the chief philanthropy officer position tasked with bringing strategic alignment to the fundraising efforts for the School of Medicine, the Medical Center (downtown and Midtown campuses), and our Rehabilitation and Orthopaedic Institute, while also considering our efforts across the University of Maryland Medical System. I am excited to work alongside the wonderful team members, leaders, care providers, volunteers, and supporters who have made the promise of medicine a reality across our campuses.

Philanthropy in academic medicine is typically about one thing: hope. In the many conversations I’ve had with grateful patients, alumni, and donors — some of whom are facing significant health challenges — their motivations are similar: help solve medical quandaries to bring better care and treatments to current patients; fuel research in ways that allow future patients the ability to experience a different fate; support the training of the next generation of health care providers to ensure expertise across disease areas; and express sincere gratitude to care providers for compassionate and comprehensive care. Hope shines through in all of these motivations, and it is an honor to be a conduit between donors and our medical center and School of Medicine to bring hope to all.

What are the advantages in fundraising for both the UM School of Medicine and UM Medical Center? What do you foresee as the challenges?

Unprecedented change is happening in health care and education, generally; the University of Maryland is not immune. Those who do not innovate now will likely not thrive. In a time when operating margins are shrinking and hospitals and medical schools are faced with the challenge of developing new strategies to address funding needs, philanthropy can be a driver of innovation and also a resource for urgent unmet needs. Data (compiled by the Association of Healthcare Philanthropy) shows that $17 in patient revenue has the same impact as $1 in philanthropic revenue. Imagine the possibilities and potential impact of philanthropy as we strategically align priorities and share a vision for our academic medical enterprise; together, as one philanthropy team, we can do so much more.

We are also well-positioned to draw on UMB’s strengths as ONE CAMPUS with collaborative expertise in medicine, nursing, law, dentistry, pharmacy, social work, and graduate programs. There are very few places in the country that can address problems on a scale as large as ours, analyzing issues and bringing solutions through a multidimensional lens; those solutions will rely on collaboration.

Collaboration will only be possible with a realignment of systems, processes, and operations across our medicine enterprise in ways that simplify our philanthropic efforts for our internal team members and instill trust with our external constituents. We will need to reframe our thinking, bringing a new culture of philanthropy that is focused on the donor and more relational and less transactional. I find myself in the center of a pivotal moment in the long-storied histories of both the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical Center. Balancing the polarity of stability and change is a challenge. We all know the benefits of a stable way of doing business are predictability and consistency, but too much stability can bring stagnation. On the other hand, the benefits of change are creativity and new approaches, yet, change too quickly can result in chaos and inefficiency. As we look to the future, it is my job to balance this, to understand, at the core of our current operations, what is working really well that should remain stable — the things that have made us successful up until this point — and to determine where there are possibilities for change to make our philanthropic efforts more wildly successful in the future. I am excited that both UMSOM Dean Mark Gladwin, MD, and Bert O’Malley, MD, president and CEO of UMMC, have made a commitment to innovation, to align a vision that will take advantage of our longstanding core strengths, while simultaneously creating pathways for new collaboration and partnership.

What are your goals for the School of Medicine for the next six months?

After just a short time in the role, there are high-level goals already coming into focus. First, we must bring uniformity to systems and platforms that make communication across the team easier. We must also continue to create a culture where team members feel valued and inspired and have the resources to be highly successful. We will likely make some organizational structure changes that help coordinate processes, eliminate duplicity, and focus on front-line fundraising. We will continue our work building trust and a partnership framework across campus, as our success is predicated on partnering with our faculty, staff, volunteers, and donors. We will articulate a vision that aligns with high-level funding priorities, and better use data strategically to inform our decisions.

Ultimately, creating a donor-centric culture of philanthropy centered on trust, respect, compassion, and integrity, grounded in data and metrics, is the goal. A donor-centric way of doing business means we think about and prioritize the donor every day, matching the donors’ passions with the needs of our institution, resulting in a win-win scenario. We will work to build a structure and articulate a shared vision that engages philanthropists and provides a seamless and positive giving experience for them, while helping them see the impact of their support. We will make it easier for faculty and donors to partner with us to accelerate scientific discovery, advance medical education and training, and improve the delivery of patient-centered care.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

People might be surprised to learn that I was a fastpitch softball player, with primary positions at first base and pitcher. I played a variety of sports in middle and high school — basketball, volleyball, golf, tennis — but softball was my passion. From about age 10 through my early years of college, my life (and the lives of my family who tirelessly supported me) revolved around my softball schedule.

My love of softball, I think, originated from happy memories at Memorial Stadium watching the Orioles with my grandfather. I can recall many games in the stands watching the game as my grandfather listened to the announcers on his radio, taking in the sights and sounds, and of course, eating hot dogs. Today, my husband and I remain true Orioles fans, watching games at Camden Yards and also traveling to away games across the country to show our support (every once in a while, I’ll pull out my softball glove during pre-game batting practice).

What kinds of things do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

In my spare time, I like to be outside. Gardening brings me joy and stress relief. Getting my hands dirty and watching flowers and vegetables grow from seed brings a sense of accomplishment. My husband and I enjoy the beach. Sitting under an umbrella, listening to the waves crash and reading a good book is the perfect escape for me. Baseball keeps me busy in the summer; we’ve watched the Orioles play up and down the East Coast, on the West Coast, and in lots of cities in between. Family is of utmost importance to me, and any time spent with loved ones is a blessing.

From CATALYST (Vol. 5 Issue 2), University of Maryland Baltimore, Jen Badie, Spring 2023 (https://catalystmag.umaryland.edu/5-questions-with-heather-culp-chief-philanthropy-officer-for-umsom-and-ummc/)


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