As COVID-19 cases in Maryland and across the bcountry spiked in the spring, brothers Ashton and Adair Newhall felt compelled to act. At the time, health care providers faced many challenges with the novel coronavirus, including a nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as surgical masks and gowns.
“During those early days, it really was a trial run period for caregivers treating the virus and many times, they didn’t have the equipment necessary to protect themselves,” Adair explains. “Ashton and I have so much respect for the health care professionals on the front line and we wanted to find a way to help fill that void across Maryland.”
As venture capitalists who manage an extensive network of entrepreneurs, Ashton and Adair knew they could find a solution and find alternate sources of PPE. Ashton is the co-founder of Greenspring Associates, a global venture capital firm with more than $12 billion in assets under management. About five years ago, Adair joined Greenspring Associates as a principal with a focus on the firm’s portfolio impact and healthcare investment practices.
Ashton and Adair wanted to make a large impact in Maryland and reached out to Dr. Mohan Suntha, president and chief executive officer of the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS). The medical system oversees 13 hospitals across the state and delivers approximately 25 percent of hospital-based care in Maryland.
The brothers volunteered their time and expertise to find additional sources of PPE for UMMS, which Dr. Suntha graciously accepted. The ability to locate new suppliers of PPE was not an easy task, especially with a strained health care supply chain and countless other medical institutions across the world looking for alternatives as well.
Many factors came into play for success, Ashton explains, including the ability of knowing who to call among their trusted contacts and possessing the skills to coordinate complex logistics. Through a lot of hard work and many manhours, Ashton and Adair secured more than 1.4 million units of PPE for UMMS. And their selflessness didn’t stop there: together with their wives, Becky and Kathryn, they also made a personal and transformational $1 million gift to the UMMS COVID-19 Response Fund.
“We did not just want to write a check,” Ashton says, “we wanted to engage in the fight.”
Early in the pandemic, UMMS responded to COVID-19 as a system by establishing an Incident Command Structure to unify and ensure that each member hospital could effectively respond to the needs in their communities.
“Across the University of Maryland Medical System we are acutely aware of our responsibility to care for our communities locally and regionally. Across the state we are uniquely positioned to leverage our collective efforts to efficiently and effectively respond to the growing needs of our patients and our workforce,” says Dr. Suntha.
The Incident Command Structure also ensured that PPE and other in-kind donations would be distributed across the medical system to front line workers. As a result, Ashton and Adair’s extraordinary efforts had a widespread impact throughout the entire 13-hospital medical system.
“As one of the largest private employers in the state, our health system’s more than 28,000 employees are our single greatest asset to combat COVID-19 and we An Unexpected Venture Venture capitalists Ashton and Adair Newhall sourced more than 1.4 million units of personal protective equipment for the University of Maryland Medical System; they also gave a transformational philanthropic gift to the UMMS COVID-19 Response Fund care for them just as we care for our patients,” says Dr. Suntha. “When the supply chain was challenged, Ashton and Adair stepped up without hesitation to offer their guidance and expertise as venture capitalists to find new sources of PPE. They also made an extraordinary $1 million gift to our COVID-19 Response Fund, which had an additional and profound impact across our entire medical system. I am forever grateful to them for their generosity and steadfast commitment to our patients, our workforce, and our state.”
Ashton and Adair strongly believe in the positive role that venture capital can play in society. Venture capital not only benefits the companies that it helps to create, but also has a deeper impact on the greater community.
“Much of our professional lives are shaped around the notion: try to be the change you want to see in the world,” Ashton explains. “When we think about philanthropy, we apply a lot of the venture mindset: how can we have an exceptional impact that can change the world?”
Ashton and Adair’s motivation to act stems from their upbringing. Born and raised in Baltimore, the brothers praise their grandfather and father, who were both venture capitalists, for instilling the message: never sit back if you can effect positive change. Their father especially continues to be an influence.
“We’re lucky that we observed our father, who is very much the type to be service-oriented and step into the void when needed,” Adair says. “It’s definitely imprinted in our minds.”
Their family’s philanthropic philosophy reinforces the positive impact that venture capital has on the greater community. Ashton and Adair’s ability to source a substantial amount of PPE during an unprecedented health crisis is just one example.
“Venture capital is a powerful force for the good of society,” Ashton says. “It doesn’t surprise me that a venture-backed company has produced a vaccine. We are very hopeful and will continue to be a part of the solutions to the challenges that ail us.”