Malin Burnham: Community before self during the COVID-19 crisis

| Written by Malin Burnham
Malin Burnham photo

Our namesake shares why supporting biomedical research is more important than ever before. 

How are you and your family doing in this COVID-19 crisis? How has it affected your life? 
We are lucky in that all of my family members and friends are in good health. When you see the situation in other parts of the country and the world, however, you can tell that this virus has a devastating impact on the communities where it hit hardest. Given that I have not been affected directly, I don’t want to complain, but I have to admit that cabin fever has become a real challenge. I hope that we will find ways to manage the outbreak quickly, so we can all go back to our normal lives soon. I am thrilled about the exciting and promising COVID-19 research that has been taking place at Sanford Burnham Prebys over the past weeks. 
Is there anything that you’ve learned in this crisis that surprised you? 
There have been many things that have surprised me since the outbreak began earlier this year. On the one hand, I have been impressed by how quickly some communities have prepared and responded to the pandemic. I have been even more impressed by the compassion and work ethic of our healthcare workers. This crisis shows us again, how much we need them and what important roles they play in our society. A major surprise to me has been the virality of this virus and how fast the pandemic has affected the entire world. Nobody lives in a bubble anymore. Healthcare crises like this one can quickly spread across the globe. 
How do you think the San Diego community has responded to the crisis? 
I’m most pleased to see that San Diego County immediately started following almost all of the steps proposed on a State and Federal level to keep our population safe and implemented plans to help affected businesses. Even though we can’t tell yet what the long-term effects will be, we should be proud of that as a community. I am also excited to be part of a community that has been on the frontlines of the fight against the novel coronavirus. Our residents abided by the rules, our hospitals were well prepared and managed the influx of COVID-19 patients well, we’re testing more and more people for the virus, and we have the talent and infrastructure on the Torrey Pines Mesa and beyond to find an effective treatment for COVID-19 quickly. Sanford Burnham Prebys is playing an important role in that effort. “Community before Self” has been my motto for a while now and I can really see that happening in our community right now. 
What do you think we, as a community, should take away from this crisis? What have we learned? 
The community spirit to fight COVID-19 that we have seen over the past few weeks has been truly energizing. It shows what we can achieve as a community when we all work together toward a common goal. This shouldn’t stop once we find a vaccine or cure for COVID-19, instead we should expand this cooperative spirit to other community needs of which there are plenty in San Diego and our region. 
Why is support for organizations like Sanford Burnham Prebys particularly important at this time? 
As you know, I have been a supporter of the Institute for a very long time and the COVID-19 crisis shows us again how important the work of institutes like Sanford Burnham Prebys is. If fundamental and translational medical research is not done, there will not be any new treatments or cures. The work Dr. Sumit Chanda, for example, has done, in such a short time, is incredible. Screening a library of 12,000 compounds that are known to be safe in humans in just a few weeks, that’s quite a task and shows how nimble the Institute is. Philanthropic support right now, to fight the pandemic, is more important than ever because getting federal grants takes a very long time and is a cumbersome process. We don’t have the time for that. We need a vaccine or effective treatment quickly, not in a few years from now. Philanthropy can fill that gap and help society at large in a very profound way. 

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