New York, NY – March 2001 – The Department of Neurological Surgery at Columbia University’s College of Physicians & Surgeons received a pledge of $10 million from New York-based philanthropist Alberto Vilar to establish a professorship, scholar program, and research endowment. Internationally considered the world’s most generous supporter of the classical performing arts, Mr. Vilar joined world-renowned mezzo-soprano and longtime supporter of the Neurological Institute, Cecilia Bartoli, in March to unveil the renaming of the department: The Alberto W. Vilar Department of Neurological Surgery.
“As a professional investor in the healthcare sector, I put a lot of faith in cutting-edge medical research and technology. I think that there is great promise for the future–a future filled with health and hope for people facing the challenges of brain and spinal tumors and other neurological dysfunctions. For this reason, it is my privilege to further the important work being done in Columbia’s Department of Neurological Surgery. This department has had a tremendous impact on people’s lives, and it is my hope that my gift will enable it to help and heal many others.”
The gift will establish the Alberto W. Vilar Professorship of Neurological Surgery, a $1.5 million endowment to support departmental research programs. The gift will also establish a neurological scholar program to launch the academic career of a newly certified neurosurgeon every two to four years. Financial support will be provided from an endowment of $6 million. The field of research will vary depending on the needs of the department but will include cerebrovascular diseases, neurooncology, spine, epilepsy, pediatrics, and pain.
In addition, a $2.5 million research endowment will launch the Spinal Cord Regeneration Research Program, beginning a new era of spine research at Columbia. When the research program becomes self-funded, the endowment funds will be shifted to another vital neuroscience research program.
“Alberto Vilar and the Department of Neurological Surgery represent a wonderful marriage of enlightened philanthropy, passionate advocacy, and brilliant science,” says Dr. Gerald Fischbach, vice president and dean. “Neurological surgery has emerged from being a specialty to become a major department in the medical center.”
Mr. Vilar founded Amerindo Investment Advisors Inc. in 1980. Today the company manages approximately $9 billion in the fastest growing sectors of the U.S. economy. The 60-year-old Cuban-American is a vigorous supporter of education, health care, and the classical performing arts, especially opera. Mr. Vilar was introduced to the Department of Neurological Surgery and Dr. James G. McMurtry III, professor of neurosurgery, by Ms. Bartoli. The accomplished performer has been a supporter and fund-raiser of the Institute, specifically in the area of brain tumor research.
“The Department of Neurological Surgery is delighted to be associated with a man of Mr. Vilar’s reputation for seeking out excellence and fostering success. His financial support will allow this department to achieve new levels of academic achievement in research into areas such as brain tumors, cerebrovascular diseases, epilepsy, and spinal cord injury”, says Robert Solomon, M.D., Byron Stookey Professor and Chairman and Director of Service, Columbia University’s Department of Neurological Surgery.
The department of is internationally recognized for its surgical expertise in the treatment of brain and spine tumors. It is part of Columbia-Presbyterian’s Neurological Institute, which treats more cases of neurological dysfunction than any other teaching hospital in the world. Columbia’s 12-member neurosurgical team performs more than 2,500 operations per year and is recognized for making immense strides in the management of a wide range of disorders of the central nervous system. In becoming the Alberto Vilar Department of Neurological Surgery, the department becomes the first in the history of Columbia University to assume the name of an individual.