Translational Research

Gut Feeling

Dr. Eamonn M. Quigley, director of the Lynda K. and David M. Underwood Center for Digestive Disorders, pictured with Robin Houston, Kelly Goodro and Dr. Bincy P. Abraham
Gift for gi research chair reflects CHERRY FAMILY’S values
It may not be a glamorous topic, but one does not have to look far to find headlines highlighting the mysteries of the human gut. In the past few years, the trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms residing in this bustling microbiome have caused a stir in medical science, with studies linking them to Type 2 diabetes, obesity, depression, cancer, and other health conditions.
Leonard Cherry and his family had recently established the Cerise Family Foundation but had yet to make their founding gift. As the Cherry family learned of the remarkable medical potential that research into this enigmatic realm holds, they decided that their first act would be to establish the Cherry Family Chair in Gastroenterology Research in the Houston Methodist Lynda K. and David M. Underwood Center for Digestive Disorders. The endowed fund will provide critical support for a leading physician-scientist to conduct research in gastrointestinal (GI) disorders — looking at the impact the microbiome has on GI conditions and other chronic illnesses.
“My brothers and I were taught by our parents the importance of living our lives in the service of others,” Leonard says. “We want to continue this mandate and model the true joy of philanthropy for the younger generations of our family.” Leonard notes that five generations of his lineage have received “exceptional care” at Houston Methodist.
The rest of the Cherry family also was drawn to Houston Methodist because of the impact they believe the hospital’s research will have on the future of health care. Regina and Leonard Cherry’s daughters, Hayley Cherry Wagoner and Elaine Cherry Stark, and the extended family play a big part in making philanthropic decisions for the foundation.
When Hayley and Elaine learned of research suggesting that gut health likely dictates the health of the entire body, it was as if a light bulb went off. They felt the investment in gastroenterology research was the right one for their foundation and made the call to direct the Cerise Family Foundation gift to support this specialty area.
“So many issues can be improved if the Houston Methodist team gains a richer understanding of the gut microbiome,” Hayley says. “Our family would love to see the positive trickle-down impact of this initial research on other diseases and other areas of the body,” adds Elaine.
Leonard says he sees a positive benefit of this gift for his family as well. “Providing this support through our family foundation will help our children and grandchildren learn what philanthropy means,” he says. “It will help them understand the value — and the joy — of giving back to others. And because it is Houston Methodist, it will make a real difference.”