Rhode Island Hospital

Philanthropy News from Rhode Island Hospital

magic mushrooms

Grant-Funded Research

Using ‘Magic Mushrooms’ For OCD Treatment.

“Magic mushrooms” are currently one of the hottest subjects in psychiatric research. Soon this cutting-edge research will also be conducted at Rhode Island Hospital.

Lifespan Cancer Institute to Grow Research and Training Programs with Papitto Opportunity Connection Support

Safran Speaking


Transformational grant will launch effort to train high school students of color for careers in cancer medicine.

The Lifespan Cancer Institute at Rhode Island Hospital has received a $10 million commitment from the Papitto Opportunity Connection (POC) to expand cancer care, research, and education in Rhode Island.

With the goal to build the next generation of cancer physicians and researchers reflective of the communities it serves, the Lifespan Cancer Institute will use these funds to launch the Future Gen Cancer Scholars program. The first-of-its-kind mentoring program will specifically target high school students of color in the communities of Central Falls, Pawtucket, and Providence. It stands to also address the lack of physicians of color in a state with strong populations of Black and Hispanic residents.

The program will enroll up to twenty students of color annually who are nominated by their high schools and selected through an application process. Beginning at the conclusion of their sophomore year, the students will participate in a six-week program across two successive summers, shadowing some of the nation’s top cancer doctors and scientists at Rhode Island, The Miriam, and Hasbro Children’s hospitals. Scholars will also have access to state-of-the-art laboratories at the Lifespan Cancer Institute and the Cancer Center at Brown University, where cancer research space will become a classroom.



POC’s community investment will also provide funding to enhance cancer research at Lifespan’s Coro building. The addition of new research technologies positions Lifespan scientists to expand the understanding and treatment of cancers such as brain tumors and hematologic malignancies, while being central to the ability to recruit the best and brightest to Rhode Island.

News of this transformational gift – the second $10 million commitment to Lifespan from the POC since 2021 – was shared publicly during a Dec. 15 news conference held at Shea High School in Pawtucket, one of the schools that will participate in the Future Gen program.

Next Gen Team

$1M Gift Benefits Neurology Care at Rhode Island Hospital

Neurology Gift
Cristina Watkins, MSN, NP; Mahesh V. Jayaraman, MD and Kristen Czekanski, NP

When you combine the vision and purpose of forward-thinking health care professionals with the incredible generosity of caring philanthropists, the results can be powerful.

The recently created Helen D. Buchanan Family Fellowship—an experiential learning opportunity for advanced practice providers (APP) in the neurosciences field—is a shining example of that partnership in action.

‘How do we create awareness?’

Cristina Watkins is a nurse practitioner at Rhode Island Hospital with a not-so-common clinical subspecialty in neurology. “I think I was the only one of my graduating class of NPs who went into neurology,” she says, adding with a laugh, “I think some people think it’s scary.”

Over the last five years, Cristina has been a member of the hospital’s neurovascular team and knows firsthand how critically important the contributions of APPs have been, particularly in the delivery of stroke and neurocritical care.

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Driving Change in How Alzheimer's Disease is Diagnosed

Director shares insights on treatment, research, and the center’s goals

Chung-Ku Wu, MD

Dr. Chuang-Kuo “John” Wu is a neurology clinician and researcher who has held prestigious appointments throughout the country. In September 2020, he was recruited to return to Rhode Island Hospital to serve as Director of the Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center.

You returned to Rhode Island to lead the Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center, what is your history in the field and what attracted you to come back to the Ocean State?

My time working in Rhode Island Hospital’s neurology department alongside renowned researcher Dr. Brian Ott was incredibly rewarding. I am particularly proud of the services we expanded and the many National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded research and clinical trials we worked on. In 2007, I was recruited to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, and later to the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center to head its neurology residency program. My specialties and research interests center on slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and various types of dementia. Coming back here was an easy decision—it allows me to continue Dr. Ott’s legacy following his retirement. Rhode Island is a unique place to study Alzheimer’s disease. Its population and aging demographic represents a model system that reflects a cross-section of the entire country.

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Grant News from Rhode Island Hospital

The Rhode Island Foundation’s Special Medical Fund grant program awarded a grant of $21,899 to support the “Digital Memory Screening – Expanded Accessibility Project.” As a prevention and treatment effort, the importance of early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia cannot be overstated. Through this initiative, we will employ integrated technology to expand accessibility of digital memory screening to meet the needs of aging Rhode Islanders.

An $11,000 grant from the Everett F. Boyden Trust was received to implement a scar revision and reconstruction program in the Rhode Island Hospital Burn Center. The funding will allow the Burn Center to purchase equipment, materials, and supplies needed to provide more comprehensive care in the reconstructive phase of recovery for our burn survivors. 

Rhode Island Hospital was awarded a $51,750 grant from the Rhode Island Foundation’s Program for the Blind grant program to support the purchase of equipment needed in vision preservation treatment for our ophthalmology clinic patients. 

A grant of $80,000 from the Sidney R. Baer, Jr. Foundation will enable Rhode Island Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry’s fellowship in psychosomatic medicine to continue exploring and enhancing the diagnosis and treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders in the medically ill.