bowmanMaking a difference through philanthropic collaboration

Throughout the three decades he worked in top leadership positions at Merrill Lynch, Matthias (Matt) Bowman understood that achieving results in business requires one essential ingredient – collaboration.

Mr. Bowman (shown at left with Dr. Maurizio Fava), who six years ago retired as president and CEO of Merrill Lynch Ventures and began devoting much of his time to advocate for and support mental health research, believes that collaboration is no less important, and possibly even more so, in the nonprofit sector. “Generating support for research of mental illness, which unfortunately still has so much stigma and misunderstanding associated with it, is much more difficult than for conditions like cancer or heart disease,” says Mr. Bowman. “To be as effective as possible in light of this reality, individuals and organizations must work together.”

True to the spirit of collaboration, Mr. Bowman is an active member of three nonprofit organizations dedicated to mental health research: NARSAD, in New York; the Stanley Medical Research Institute, based in Maryland; and the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry. The peripatetic Mr. Bowman, who resides in New York, attends meetings and events at these organizations many times throughout the year, generously sharing his time and expertise in numerous capacities.

At MGH, Mr. Bowman is a member of the Depression Clinical and Research Program (DCRP) Advisory Council, led by program director Maurizio Fava, MD, vice-chair of the department of Psychiatry. He also is a member of the Advisory Council for the Schizophrenia Clinical and Research Program headed by Donald Goff, MD. The advisory councils play critical philanthropic and ambassadorial roles for these and other department of Psychiatry programs. “It’s terrific to have someone as talented and entrepreneurial as Matt involved in our council,” says Dr. Fava. “He is also an extremely loyal supporter of our work, for which we are very grateful.”

New tools available

“This is a very exciting time in psychiatry. Tools that didn’t exist even 10 years ago are now available to help scientists better understand mental illness and develop targeted therapies to treat its many forms. Now more than ever, it is important for funding sources – both individuals and organizations – to collaborate.” — Matthias B. Bowman

In addition to serving on the two councils, Mr. Bowman, along with his wife, Penny, and their three children provide philanthropic support to several department of Psychiatry faculty through the Bowman Family Foundation. The foundation’s decisions about which projects to support are based, in part, on Mr. Bowman’s considerable knowledge of the science, which he gleaned from taking undergraduate and graduate-level courses in neuroscience, molecular biology and other topics, pouring over scientific journals and attending scientific conferences.

One project supported by the Bowman Family Foundation is conducted by David Mischoulon, MD, PhD, director of Natural Remedy Studies in the DCRP. The goal of Dr. Mischoulon’s project is to determine, through the measurement of histamine levels, which patients with depression might benefit from the alternative therapy S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe) or escitalopram, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant, so that these therapies could be appropriately targeted to individuals who are most likely to benefit.

Another foundation-supported project, led by Roy Perlis, MD, also of the DCRP, is using advanced, ultrafast genotyping technologies to identify genes that may indicate a susceptibility to adverse effects from SSRI antidepressants, which are often used to treat people with major depressive disorder. The hope is that individuals found to be at higher risk of adverse side effects from SSRIs could be treated with other classes of medications. Yet another project, led by A. Edin Evins, MD, MPH, co-director of the DCRP’s Center for Addiction Medicine, is focused on elucidating the mechanisms of nicotine addiction and cognitive impairment among people with schizophrenia.

Mr. Bowman points out that, in some cases, the Bowman Family Foundation is not the sole philanthropic supporter. Dr. Evins’s project, for example, is co-supported by NARSAD. Also, the foundation is joining with other foundations and individuals to help fund an endowed Harvard Medical School (HMS) professorship in depression. “While an individual donor may not be able to fully fund a specific project or endowed chair, many donors can join together to ensure these important initiatives are supported,” says Mr. Bowman. Mental health organizations can also be more effective by working together, he says, noting that – in various combinations – the Stanley Medical Research Institute, NARSAD, the Sidney Baer Jr. Foundation and the Bowman Family Foundation have often co-supported MGH department of Psychiatry research.

“This is a very exciting time in which tools that didn’t exist even 10 years ago are available to help scientists better understand mental illness and develop targeted therapies to treat its many forms,” says Mr. Bowman. “Now more than ever, it is important for funding sources – both individuals and organizations – to collaborate.


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