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ADA Foundation hires new executive director

The ADAF Board of Directors has announced the appointment of Gene Wurth as the ADA Foundation’s new executive director, effective July 5.

Mr. Wurth, a veteran fundraising and public relations executive, holds a bachelor’s degree in English, a juris doctor and a master’s in business administration—all from the University of Illinois.

Image: Welcome: Dr. David Whiston (left), president of the ADA Foundation, greets Gene Wurth, the ADA Foundation’s new executive director.

Welcome: Dr. David Whiston (left), president of the ADA Foundation, greets Gene Wurth, the ADA Foundation’s new executive director.

Prior to joining the ADA Foundation, Mr. Wurth served as the president and chief executive officer for the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation in Rosemont, Ill., which raised more than $150 million for orthopaedic research and education during the 11 years he was there.

He plans to continue his dedication to research and education at the Foundation.

“The opportunity to help shape another foundation and move to the next stage of development is very exciting,” said Mr. Wurth.

“The ADAF Board and all involved with the Foundation are excited to have someone with Gene’s background and abilities assuming this role at the ADA Foundation,” said Dr. David Whiston, president, ADA Foundation. “His unique skills will help push the Foundation toward greater success in all areas of charitable giving, access, research and education.”

During Mr. Wurth’s tenure, OREF created its Clinician Scientist Awards, which provide $100,000 per year in salary support to scientists for three consecutive years. The organization also focused on developing researchers for the future by offering resident and introductory resident research grants, as well as supporting resident research symposia across the country to allow residents to make public presentations of their research efforts.

Helping scientists secure the funds they need to tackle difficult research is among Mr. Wurth’s passions. At OREF, he was continually impressed by the impact research could have on patient care, and how new developments in patient care could help lower health are costs.

“The hardest challenge in fundraising,” he said, “is developing your ‘case for support’—the statement that encourages someone to make a gift. Putting a personal touch on the way gifts can make a difference, what they make possible to improve people’s lives, makes that easier. If you tell those stories the right way, you can get people to follow you.”

Mr. Wurth spoke of researchers he knows who  are devoted to unlocking the mystery behind the genetic malfunction in FOP, a rare disease characterized by rapid and uncontrolled bone growth.

“The key is in the gene sequence, and the goal is to find the genetic malfunction that is causing the disease. A researcher has told me that if they can find out how to turn off the process, then they can conceivably, under the right circumstances, turn it on when bone growth is needed.. Such a development could make a major difference for amputees such as “wounded warriors” returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who have lost large segments of the long bones in their arms and legs, as well as others with bone-related problems. Eventually, the goal is to control bone growth.”

In 2007, OREF completed a seven-year, $100 million fundraising campaign that raised $101.1 million to further research and education in all aspects of orthopaedic care. OREF also implemented a Clinician Development Program that positioned the organization as an independent third party for industry support of graduate medical education fellowships, residency programs, continuing medical education programs and orthopaedic research. In 2010, Mr. Wurth negotiated a three-year, $13.65 million grant from a major device company to support clinical spine research.

Mr. Wurth previously spent 13 years as the assistant dean for Development Alumni Programs the University of Illinois College of Law and nine years as president and CEO of the Provena Covenant Medical Center in Urbana, Ill.

Mr. Wurth and his wife, Mary, have been married 38 years and have two children, Stephen, an attorney in Chicago and Melissa, an educator in North Carolina.