In Memoriam: Virginia Weinman

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It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of one of the biggest supporters of the University of Hawaiʻi John A. Burns School of Medicine and University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center. Virginia Weinman, president of the Weinman Foundation, passed away peacefully on July 31, 2023.

A longstanding champion of medicine and research, Virginia will be remembered for the decades of generosity she showed our Kakaʻako campuses.

Throughout the years, Barry and Virginia Weinman paved the way for medical student education while simultaneously giving JABSOM leadership the financial freedom to carry out their visions for the medical school.

In 2007, the Weinmans provided 10 students with full medical school scholarships.  The next year, they established the Weinman Chair, a resource that previous JABSOM Dean Jerris Hedges and current Interim Dean Lee Buenconsejo-Lum can tap into for initiatives that align with their objectives.

Virginia and Barry’s philanthropy was also an inspiration and motivator for our local health partners. When they offered to match the donations provided by Hawaiʻi Pacific Health and the Queen's Health System in 2018, the selfless gesture compelled our health care partners to contribute in unprecedented ways. Together, the three partners made a multimillion-dollar gift resulting in 23 full-ride scholarships.

In addition, in 2020, Barry and Virginia Weinman funded a separate cohort of 10 students, now known as the "Weinman Scholars," who will graduate in 2025. 

Because of the significant seed funding provided for JABSOM's Learning Communities, Barry and Virginia's contributions are felt by every JABSOM medical student today. The Learning Communities launched in 2020 when many physicians felt burned out from tireless shifts during the pandemic. This innovative curriculum places importance on emotional intelligence and empathy in health care. It brings students together in small groups to augment their MD curriculum and provides wellness support while preparing them for the realities of a medical career. 

The Weinmans’ philanthropy extends beyond the walls of JABSOM and reaches the most vulnerable in our community. For years, Barry and Virginia have supported the Hawaiʻi H.O.M.E. Project, where JABSOM students provide hands-on, direct care to thousands of houseless people on Oʻahu each year under the guidance of a practicing physician. 

Dean Emeritus Hedges adds that “Barry and Virginia warned me that as a leader, I could either be a ‘fireman’ or an ‘astronaut’ when using the Weinman endowment. While the Weinmans may have had something different in mind with that guidance, my aerospace engineering training told me that we needed to invest in the school’s structure and function, if we were to achieve escape velocity (i.e., move beyond our prior year-to-year survival efforts). The Weinman endowed dean’s chair helped us recruit (and launch) key staff and faculty members, including several department chairs and lead scientists. These staff and faculty members helped us initiate vital new educational and research programs at the school which contributed greatly to the school’s recognition and cumulative success.” 

“As a very talented and accomplished, pioneering woman in the field of computer science and technology, Virginia clearly had a passion for life-long learning and leading a healthy lifestyle. She particularly enjoyed our Mini-Medical School offerings and we are so pleased that we were able to reciprocate her generosity with knowledge that she could use herself and share with others,” said interim dean Lee Buenconsejo-Lum.

Virginia Weinman's commitment to the health of Hawaiʻi did not end with the medical school.   She and Barry supported the University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center. Through their generous support, the UH Cancer Center is host to the annual Weinman Symposium, a conference that brings together international experts from different fields of science and medicine, promoting collaboration and brainstorming about specific themes in cancer research. Over the years, the conference brought together Nobel Prize winners, members of the US National Academy of Sciences, and members of the Nobel Award Committee, and has sparked several research collaborations, leading to seminal discoveries which have impacted patients. 

Every year, the event was well attended by UH students, post docs, and local people interested in the field of cancer research. Still, the Weinmans felt that the symposium could have a greater impact. Hoping to inspire younger students, in 2016, they began inviting high school students, even making arrangements for them to meet with the Nobel Prize winners and members of the National Academy of Science so they could ask questions and become inspired to consider careers in science.

“Virginia’s commitment to improving cancer research and care is an honor we hold dearly,” said Naoto T. Ueno, MD, PhD, UH Cancer Center Director. “Her legacy will forever remind us of the profound impact one individual can have on the lives of many and how through dedication and vision, we can come together to forge a brighter future in the battle against cancer."

Former UH Cancer Center Director, Michele Carbone, MD, PhD, became close friends with the Weinmans and offered his condolences. “When Barry emailed me that Virginia had just died, I felt deeply sad that the world had lost such a wonderful person and that I had lost a very good friend. Yet I also felt relieved that she was no longer suffering. Thank you, Virginia, we need many more like you in this world.” 

Virginia's impact on JABSOM, the UH Cancer Center, and Hawaiʻi was magnificent. JABSOM and UHCC mourn Virginia's loss and send our deepest sympathies and love to her husband, Barry. Virginia's memory and contributions are recognized by our students, faculty, and staff daily at JABSOM as they walk by the Barry and Virginia Weinman Learning Lab. This highly-used, multi-purpose learning environment was named after them in recognition of their support.