Even after his passing months before the COVID-19 pandemic would emerge and reinvigorate broad public support for the field of virology in the fight against emerging viral diseases, Charles G. Smith of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., cemented his own legacy in the advancement of virological research for years to come, thanks to an endowed professorship at the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s (UMSOM) Institute of Human Virology (IHV) that now bears his name.
Smith’s posthumous gift of $1.26 million to IHV, a portion of which was matched by the Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative Fund Authority, was inspired by a June 2001 appearance on CNN by IHV director and co-founder Robert Gallo, MD, which highlighted Gallo’s work to detect and treat HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Gallo’s words from 20 years ago continue to ring true today for what the COVID-19 pandemic has taught much of the world about the complexity of battling a new virus.
Remarking on the initial years after HIV was discovered, Gallo told CNN: “There were … all kinds of conspiracies, not really understanding the patient population very well, and the patients not understanding the scientists, either.”
Although much is now understood about the HIV patient population and successful treatments like PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) have been developed, Smith’s gift to fund the Charles Gordon Smith Endowed Professor for HIV Research allows IHV to advance diagnostics and therapeutics for HIV, COVID-19, and other viral and immune disorders.
“We are beyond grateful for Charles Smith’s contribution to IHV’s mission and his longstanding support of HIV research and education,” says Gallo, who also is the Homer and Martha Gudelsky Distinguished Professor in Medicine at UMSOM. “His gift will enable us to continue our work in the discovery and application of new treatments and technologies, and to train the next generation of virologists to expand the field in innovative ways.”
At the time of his passing, Smith could not have known how the timing of the gift would ultimately advance HIV research, but his contribution will continue to have an impact in a way that Gallo himself articulated on-air to an audience of millions, including Smith, all those years ago: “We put our money where our voice is.”
To learn more about IHV’s work, click here. For further information about contributing your own lasting legacy through a range of planned giving opportunities across the University of Maryland, Baltimore, click here.