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$25 million gift for musculoskeletal medicine from Orland Bethel
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$25 million gift for musculoskeletal medicine from Orland Bethel

The owners of Hillandale Farms are making the largest single donation to the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine after the founder received successful surgery and treatment for incapacitating back pain.

The Bethel family’s foundation is donating $25 million, which Pitt said it will match, totaling $50 million to create the Orland Bethel Family Musculoskeletal Research Center.

Pitt said the money will help the university elevate its study of musculoskeletal disorders like osteoporosis, degenerative arthritis, fragility fractures and spinal pathology.

The university said Orland Bethel, the founder of Greensburg-based Hillandale Farms, which is one of the nation’s largest egg producers, suffered from debilitating spinal pain before he came to Pitt and UPMC for help.

He finally found some relief and restored function and motion after he received successful surgery and treatment from Dr. Joon Lee from Pitt’s Department of Orthopedic Surgery and UPMC.

“I know how the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC changed my life and can only imagine how the lives of others—worse off than I was—will be improved thanks to the ongoing research at this new center,” Bethel said in a news release.

Pitt said the only connection Bethel has to the university is the surgery and treatment he got from Dr. Lee.

Dr. Lee, in a news release, called the gift “nothing short of transformative.”

“This investment will have both immediate and generational impact,” Dr. Lee said. “With the help of Mr. Bethel and his family, we can work to immediately change how we approach the big questions, improve cross campus collaboration, and allow creativity to solve musculoskeletal problems ‘outside-the-box.’ The influence of this gift will be felt across the entire system—from young medical school students, through accomplished researchers, to improvements in patient care.”

Pitt said the donation will make musculoskeletal medicine a major focus alongside neuroscience and cancer at the School of Medicine and the five other schools of health sciences.

“With this exceptional gift, Orland Bethel and his family are supporting and advancing our continuum of work, from basic science to patient care,” University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Joan Gabel said in a news release. “I am grateful for the confidence they have placed in Pitt and for how this gift will help to elevate musculoskeletal research through the development of world-class talent and transformational discovery.”

The new center is expected to open in 2024.

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