U of M doctor launches fund for fallen health care workers

"I encourage everyone to be generous," says epidemiologist. "If you have the means to help, please do."

Dr. Michael Osterholm.jpg
Dr. Michael Osterholm, infectious disease expert from the University of Minnesota. University of Minnesota photo
We are part of The Trust Project.

ROCHESTER, Minn. — Saying "this pandemic is so terrible we need a pandemic of caring to take it on," noted University of Minnesota epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm on Monday, Nov. 16, announced the launch of Frontline Families Fund , a Minnesota-based, nationwide fund drive for families of fallen health care workers.

The new charity is intended to provide $10,000 immediate cash assistance to applicant families who have lost a loved one who was a health care worker to COVID-19, as well as to establish a scholarship fund up to $60,000 for each surviving child. It is a joint effort with the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation.

"Over 1,400 health care workers in this country have now died of COVID-19," said Osterholm. "These people put their lives on the line day after day after day, into harm's way. They are the heroes of this entire pandemic response, in ways I don't think we will fully appreciate until well after this pandemic has passed."

Osterholm said the fund will be administered under the direction of the New York-based Brave of Heart Fund, saving overhead costs. It seeks to draw attention to the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on Black Indigenous and people of color in the health care workforce.


Currently, 1,400 health care workers nationally are known to have died from COVID-19, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, although not all contracted it on the job.

The fund will have two phases, with the first being non-need based and structured for offering families who apply an immediate $10,000 grant to cover expenses including funeral costs, "or for anything those families go through," Osterholm said.

"It's there for whether a loved one passed away last week or several months ago."

With a baseline goal to give each family $10,000, the fund would need to raise $14 million for the first phase.

The second phase will seek to provide scholarships based on socioeconomic need, up to $60,000 per recipient for whatever higher education they choose. A goal would be for every fallen health care worker family to be able to get a phase one and phase two grant of some size.

Monday's announcement, timed to follow a kickoff on "CBS This Morning," was intended to mark the start of months of visibility-raising events. Osterholm said the fund is determined to raise up health care workers in their darkest hour.

"My hope that we can raise millions of dollars for these families of frontline workers who've lost their lives to covid-19," he said. "They were there to support us through this pandemic. Now they've left behind loved ones, in many cases in dire financial straits. We can't change what's happened, but it's our job as a society to be there to help support them."


Those who wish to help can donate at No donation is too small, Osterholm added.

"Even a dime or a nickel — do it as an individual, as a family, as a business or as any entity you can to help support this. I can promise the fiduciary oversight will be remarkable. I am so impressed with the activities of the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, what they do and how they do it. This will result in direct support for these families."

"As we have saluted our soldiers who have defended our country, these health care workers have almost done the same thing. They are putting their life on the line, and they are asking for nothing other than wages. We can do more, especially for those who have lost a loved one."

As a public service, we’ve opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status. If this coverage is important to you, please consider supporting local journalism by clicking on the subscribe button in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage.

  • Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 651-201-3920.
  • COVID-19 discrimination hotline: 833-454-0148
  • Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website .

Paul John Scott is the health correspondent for NewsMD and the Forum News Service. He is a novelist and was an award winning magazine journalist for 15 years prior to joining the FNS in 2019.
What to read next
“It’s clear that monkeypox has come to Minnesota,” said state Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield. “While our current cases are associated with travel outside Minnesota, we expect we will soon see cases among people who have no travel history or contact with someone who did, indicating that spread within social networks in Minnesota is occurring.”
Your body adjusts to hot weather slowly. So when heat waves hit, you need to know how to hydrate and stay cool to avoid heat-related illness. This is especially true for babies and older adults. In this episode of NewsMD's "Health Fusion," Viv Williams gets tips from an emergency medicine doctor about how to stay healthy in extreme heat.
Use of a two-drug combination now make up over half of all abortions in the United States, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion research organization. About 350,000 Google searches using those terms or "abortion pill" were conducted during the week of May 1 to 8, according to the authors of the new research letter. That first week in May is when the Supreme Court's decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked and widely reported.
When information suggesting that he U.S. Supreme Court may overturn Roe v. Wade leaked in May, internet searches about abortion drugs surged to an all-time high. In this episode of NewsMD's "Health Fusion," Viv Williams checks out a study that explored the issue and shares what the researchers say people and healthcare providers should know.