About the Foundation


Kate Macy Ladd endowed the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation in 1930 in memory of her father, who died at a young age. Since the mid-1960’s the Foundation has focused its resources specifically on improving the education of health professionals, particularly physicians.

Mrs. Ladd descended from Thomas and Sarah Macy, who immigrated to Massachusetts from England in the late 1630s. In America, the Macys, who were among the first European settlers on Nantucket Island, became prosperous maritime merchants. Six generations, and almost 200 years later, Captain Josiah Macy left Nantucket to establish a shipping and commission firm in New York City. In the 1860s, under the guidance of the retired Captain’s sons and grandsons, the firm opened New York’s first oil refinery, which was later purchased by the Standard Oil Company.

In 1876, prominent philanthropist Josiah Macy, Jr., one of the Captain’s grandsons, died of yellow fever at age 38. The family’s philanthropic tradition was continued by his daughter, Kate, who married the lawyer and yachtsman Walter Graeme Ladd. By the time of her death in 1945, she had given the Foundation approximately $19 million.

Until 1945, the Foundation focused its grantmaking on medical research in such fields as traumatic shock and war-related psychiatric disorders, geriatrics and aging, arteriosclerosis, genetics and human development, and psychosomatic medicine. The Foundation’s extensive conference and publication program was also begun during this period.

From the end of World War II through the mid-1960s, the Foundation supported the efforts of medical schools to expand and strengthen their basic science faculties. During that time, the Foundation also began supporting the emergent fields of basic reproductive biology, human reproduction, and family planning, and fostered their incorporation into the biological, behavioral, and social science bases of academic obstetrics and gynecology.

Since the mid-1970s, the Foundation has awarded more than 70 percent of its grants to projects that broaden and improve the education of physicians and other health professionals. For example, the Foundation has funded programs to recruit and retain underrepresented minority students in premedical collegiate programs and in medical schools, provide sabbatical leaves for medical school faculty, expand pediatric training programs in developing countries, and develop medical history programs in U.S. medical schools. The Foundation also has supported projects in emergency medicine and the education of physician assistants.

In 1981, the Foundation refocused its Minorities in Medicine program to support academic enrichment programs for minority high school students interested in careers in medicine and the sciences. These high school programs were so successful that, in 1990, the Foundation established Ventures in Education, a non-profit corporation, to replicate these programs across the nation.

Also during the 1980s, the Foundation funded studies at medical schools and universities in the cognitive sciences of medicine, including studies of the clinical decision-making process used by physicians, and the application of basic science knowledge to clinical reasoning. Additionally, the Foundation supported programs at medical schools and research institutions that encouraged doctoral candidates in biomedical science to pursue careers in research relevant to human disease by providing them with special educational programs in human pathology and physiology.

In the early part of the 1990s, considerable emphasis was placed on health educational strategies that would enhance primary care in the U.S. health care system. Then, with the retirement of Dr. Thomas Meikle, Jr. as the fifth president of the Foundation, the Board of Directors of the Macy Foundation devised a policy statement to give focus to discussions with potential successors for that position. Central among the points made in that statement was the mission to “develop, monitor, and evaluate projects which demonstrate new approaches to addressing problems in health professions education.”

With the guidance of that mission statement, the current president, June E. Osborn, M.D., formulated four funding priorities in grant-making.