In April 2013, Esta and Robert Epstein stood near the finish line of the Boston Marathon waiting for their granddaughter Danielle to complete the iconic race. In an instant, two bombs exploded, critically injuring their other granddaughter, Gillian, a spectator. The Epsteins were at Gillian’s side as she was rushed to Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
“Through Gillian’s treatment and recovery, we learned trauma research and care have been left behind in terms of funding,” says Robert. “In general, methods of amputation and treatment haven’t really changed in the last century.”
Determined to make a difference, Esta and Robert’s daughter and son-in-law, Audrey Epstein Reny and Steven Reny, launched the Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Fund at BWH in 2014 to fuel new ideas in trauma research. Esta and Robert, who have become members of the Stepping Strong Advisory Board and the hospital’s President’s Advisory Board, have made gifts totaling more than $1.6 million to trauma research and care. Their generosity contributed to the establishment of The Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Center for Trauma Innovation, where one of the research suites is named in their honor.
“Every medical and financial contribution represents the possibility of more impact. We believe the Stepping Strong Center’s work is going to have worldwide implications for civilians and military personnel with traumatic injuries.” —Robert Epstein
“Through our involvement with Stepping Strong, we’ve met so many wonderful Brigham doctors,” says Esta. “And we’ve learned about new innovations their research is bringing to the forefront for trauma patients like Gillian.”
One of the efforts supported by the Epsteins is the Stepping Strong Plastic Surgery Trauma Fellowship. Directed by Christian Sampson, MD, director of residency in BWH’s Division of Plastic Surgery, the year-long program provides training in the latest advances in surgical management, limb reconstruction, rehabilitation, and scar management.
The Epsteins’ generosity also advances a research collaboration between plastic surgeon Indranil Sinha, MD, and bioengineer Su-Ryon Shin, PhD, who are developing a treatment to restore skeletal muscle mass and function for patients with traumatic injuries.
“Robert and I are especially interested in muscle regeneration research because that was such a difficult part of Gillian’s leg rehabilitation,” says Esta.
Adds Robert, “Every medical and financial contribution represents the possibility of more impact. We believe the Stepping Strong Center’s work is going to have worldwide implications for civilians and military personnel with traumatic injuries.”