The University of Maryland School of Medicine announced this week a $500 million fundraising goal — the Baltimore institution's largest campaign ever.

Donors already have given $339 million during the quiet phase of the campaign, dubbed "Transforming Medicine Beyond Imagination." The money will be used to advance research, fund top-notch training of doctors and devise ways to improve patient care, said Dean E. Albert Reece.

Reece said institutions like his need to look more to private donors as government funds fail to keep pace with growth.

State funding made up 9 percent of the medical school's $417.3 million budget in fiscal year 2002. That had dropped to 3.5 percent of a nearly $1 billion operating budget in fiscal year 2012.

Future federal funding also is more uncertain as the government seeks to reduce its debt by slashing spending. Research institutions around the country are bracing for $1.6 billion in cuts to the $30 billion budget of the National Institutes of Health under the across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration.

"With this very, very difficult environment for institutions like us, we have to depend on philanthropy becoming much more of a major player to allow us to continue to do the things we do," Reece said.

The medical school also is looking to increase its $160 million endowment, which it said is much smaller than those of institutions its size. Until 2000, the medical school didn't do much fundraising, depending instead on public funding, tuition and revenue from caring for patients.

"We value state support and wouldn't want to lose it," Reece said. "The reality is it's not expanding at amounts that keep up with inflation."

The money raised will be used to support scholarships for medical students and to develop procedures and surgical techniques that are less invasive with quicker recovery times. It will allow the institution to make advances in emerging fields where it has already made progress, including regenerative medicine and stem cell biology.

The medical school also hopes to advance trauma care and vaccine development, and conduct further research on deadly viruses such as HIV and hepatitis C.

The campaign, which runs through June 2015, targets everyone from medical school alumni and patients to wealthy families and large foundations. The medical school expects to get some of the largest gifts from individuals in its history.

Carolyn McGuire Frenkil, a longtime donor to the medical school, said the size of the donation doesn't matter. Her husband, Dr. James Frenkil, graduated from the medical school in 1937 and was a longtime supporter. He died in 2009 at age 96.

Frenkil said it is important to fund research so that patients get the best care, especially as the population ages.

"It's not how much you give," she said. "It is the fact that you participate in some way, no matter the amount."

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