The purpose of this communication* is to acquaint the readers with the
Sharpe-Strumia Research Foundation of Bryn Mawr Hospital, hereafter
referred to as The Foundation.
The Foundation has been in existence since August 1944 when it was
chartered as a nonprofit corporation by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
and was then known as the Bryn Mawr Research Foundation. Following the
death of Dr. John S. Sharpe in 1946, an amendment was filed on July 11,
1947 to change the name of The Foundation to honor Dr. Sharpe. The
amendment to the Articles of Incorporation was approved Aug. 1, 1947,
and the name was changed to The John S. Sharpe Research Foundation of
Bryn Mawr Hospital. The Foundation has played a modest but
significant role in the development of Bryn Mawr Hospital. The purpose
of The Foundation as stated in the charter is “to conduct scientific
research in the medical sciences and related fields.”
The seeds for the development of The Foundation were sown in the late
1930s when a Haverford family practitioner, Dr. John S. Sharpe sought
the assistance of Max M. Strumia, MD with regard to clinical research
relating to lobar pneumonia. Dr. Strumia was the Director of the
Department of Pathology from 1932 to 1968 and continued to work in the
department until his death in Jan. 1972.
Drs. Sharpe and Strumia worked well together, and developed a deep and
lasting admiration for each other. Dr. Sharpe's interest in research was
encouraged by his wife, Catharine, who survived him by many years and
was ever supportive of The Foundation.
Physicians who entered the practice of medicine after World War II may
wonder why Dr. Sharpe had been interested in lobar pneumonia—an entity
rarely seen today. Many do not realize that prior to 1938 approximately
one third of the medical beds in most hospitals were occupied during the
winter months by patients suffering from pneumococcal lobar pneumonia.
Mortality was very high and treatment was woefully inadequate. The only
effective therapy consisted of oxygen and large doses of tender loving
In 1938, the first effective chemotherapeutic agents for bacterial
infections became available. Prontosil (sulfanilamide attached to an
inconsequential red dye) was followed by pure sulfanilamide,
sulfapyridine and a host of other more effective and safer drugs. The
mortality for pneumococcal pneumonia dropped precipitously. Almost all
patients with pneumonia survived, and many who were treated early did
not require hospitalization.
The use of oxygen and tender loving care also dropped to a certain
extent. Lederle Laboratories stock also slipped downward because they
lost their market for type-specific antipneumococcal serum (types 1 to
xxxii). A lesser known casualty was Dr. Sharpe's clinical research. It
suffered from an acute loss of patients.
Dr. Sharpe was happy to witness the near extinction of lobar pneumonia.
He immediately turned his efforts to the support of Dr. Strumia in his
many research projects.
In 1939, the United States Army and the National Research Council had
the remarkable foresight to initiate preparations for the care of
casualties in the event that the United States became involved in the
conflict in Europe, which eventually became known as World War II.
Included in these preparations were studies on the pathophysiology and
treatment of shock associated with trauma. The studies on shock
performed at The Bryn Mawr Hospital centered on methods for providing
transfusion of blood and/or blood substitutes as close as possible to
the area in which the combatants were injured.
Dr. Strumia soon became involved with new methods for the collection of
blood, preparation of plasma, and the storage of plasma in kits which
would permit transportation without refrigeration to all parts of the
The Army made requests and promised funds. Funds were delayed and
delayed. Dr. John Reichel, Sr. and Dr. Strumia wished to purchase
apparatus to dry plasma from the frozen state. Dr. Sharpe and his
gracious wife cut what might have been a Gordian knot. They promptly
donated the necessary money, and the project was underway months in
advance of the arrival of the Army funds.
The funds from the Army, and then the Navy and the National Research
Council, eventually came through. However the early start made possible
by the support of Dr. and Mrs. Sharpe permitted the development of a
system for the preparation of dried plasma which was adopted by the
Armed Forces with very little modification. The Armed Forces actually
had a small amount of dried plasma before World War II became a reality
at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
The speed and the efficiency with which the Plasma Program at The Bryn
Mawr Hospital was completed were remarkable—particularly by today's
standards. There were no applications to the Food and Drug
Administration, no research protocol, and no animal studies prior to the
use with patients. This may not have been all to the good, but it
certainly got the job done.
Dr. Sharpe died in 1946 and the name of the organization was changed to
honor his memory. It became The John S. Sharpe Research Foundation of
Bryn Mawr Hospital in July 1947. The name change was intended to
indicate that the two corporations were closely affiliated. The close
relationship was not meant to result in loss of corporate identity of
The Foundation. It still has its own Board of Directors, and is
responsible for its own funds in accordance with its charter and the
laws of the Commonwealth and the federal government. In the early days
of The Foundation Dr. Max M. Strumia, Richard W. Ledwith, Esq. and Dr.
Alton D. Blake provided most of the guidance as members of the Board of
Directors. Dr. Strumia doubled as Director of Research and was the most
dominant member of the Board until his death in 1972.
In 1972, the Board of Directors was increased in order to provide
greater representation of the Hospital's Medical Staff, Administration,
and members from outside the hospital family. The amount of support
given by The Foundation has varied over the years. As mentioned, it
started with funds donated by Dr. and Mrs. Sharpe. Then came World War
II and federal funds flowed. When Germany and Japan surrendered,
research grants dried up and the Foundation's own funds eventually
became the primary source to support its studies.
Through the years, other individuals made generous contributions The
Foundation became the vehicle through which sizeable amounts of money
have been channeled into medical research and development. In the
past, many grateful patients have made donations to physicians for
research, development, and fellowships. The tax liability for such use
of the funds may or may not be a problem for the donor and/or the
recipient. The Foundation, chartered as a nonprofit corporation, is a
perfectly legal vehicle for donation of such funds.
Projects through the years have included plasma preparation and storage,
improved methods for whole blood storage, preparation of globin as a
blood volume expander, arthroscopy studies, radioisotope studies of the
heart, trace metal studies, and expansion of electron microscopy in the
hospital laboratory. More recently projects on heart disease, cancer, as
well as other areas are ongoing.
The Foundation is guided by its Board of Directors. The Board accepts
applications for support on the basis of merit.
The Board is responsible for prudent use of the money under its control.
It is essential that applications for funds contain a clear explanation
of the project proposed, and that regular reports be submitted so the
Board may document that the money is well spent.
The Foundation reorganized in the early 2000’s, (adopting the name
Sharpe-Strumia Research Foundation to honor the contributions of Max
Strumia) from an operating research foundation to a supporting
organization for Bryn Mawr Hospital. (Instead of performing research
directly, it awards grants to support the research aims of Bryn Mawr
Hospital and Main Line Health). Recent Presidents have included Louis
Plzak, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon; Jack L. Martin, MD, an
interventional cardiologist; Albert A. Keshgegian, MD, PhD, Pathologist;
and Lawrence A. Marinari, MD, Pulmonary and Critical Care.
* Adapted and updated from an unidentified historical source
Connect with MLH
Sharpe-Strumia Research Foundation
130 South Bryn Mawr Avenue
1st Floor, H-Wing, Room 110
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
For more information, call 1.866.CALL.MLH.