Columbia’s Diabetes Center Receives $20 Million Gift from Mike and Maria Repole on Behalf of The Nonna’s Garden Foundation
March 24, 2022 — The Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at Columbia University has received a $20 million gift from Mike and Maria Repole and The Nonna’s Garden Foundation, which was established in 2006 in honor of Mike’s Nonna (“nonna” means grandmother in Italian). The gift will help ensure that the Berrie Center has the financial support it needs to continue its work as a “one of a kind” family-centered resource for adults and children with diabetes. The new gift from Nonna’s Garden Foundation will help fund treatment of patients with diabetes and sustain Berrie Center programs that offer comprehensive multidisciplinary care for patients and their families.
The Nonna’s Garden Foundation gift recognizes the comprehensive care provided by the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center to adult and pediatric patients with diabetes and their families and will ensure that the care continues, particularly for underserved patients who need the resources of the center. The gift will be used to help patients access multidisciplinary care for their diabetes in addition to their medical care.
Robin Goland, MD, co-director of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center, says the Nonna’s Garden Foundation gift will ensure that each patient receives the most optimal individualized diabetes care possible. “Mike and Maria’s extraordinary generosity allows us to be nimble and flexible as we respond to the ever-changing medical landscape. We are grateful for their vision and their understanding of the challenges of patient care for individuals with diabetes.”
“My grandmother nurtured her garden the same way she nurtured her friends and family—with tons of tender loving care,” says Mike Repole, founder of the Nonna’s Garden Foundation. “Dr. Goland does the same for her patients at the Berrie Center. In the 15 years that Maria and I have known Dr. Goland, we have built a very special connection. We are in awe of her deep commitment to our family and to the many patient families she serves. She’s not only a first-rate doctor, she is an amazing person.
We hope this gift will allow Dr. Goland and her outstanding clinical team to continue pursuing the latest advances in diabetes treatment for their patients in our community and around the world.”
“We are proud to name the Nonna’s Garden Clinical Diabetes Program in honor of Mike’s Nonna and her dedication to family as this is a major emphasis of our clinical diabetes program,” says Dr. Goland.
"We are extremely grateful for this gift from Mike and Maria Repole and the Nonna’s Garden Foundation, which will ensure that the patients at the Berrie Center continue to receive the highest level of comprehensive diabetes care,” says Katrina Armstrong, MD, chief executive officer of Columbia University Irving Medical Center and dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. “Dr. Goland is among the nation’s leading physician scientists in diabetes, and this gift is a tribute that will add to her tremendous legacy at Columbia.”
The Nonna’s Garden Foundation has been a longtime supporter of Columbia and this $20 million gift is the foundation’s latest contribution to support the work of the Berrie Center.
About the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center
The Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center was founded in 1998 through a visionary gift from the Russell Berrie Foundation, led by trustees Russ and Angelica Berrie. Both Russ Berrie and his mother, Naomi Berrie, had diabetes. The Berrie Foundation’s ongoing support for many diabetes initiatives throughout the years has enabled the Berrie Center to advance diabetes research and greatly improve diabetes care for thousands of people in the New York metropolitan area and beyond. Today, the Berrie Center has approximately 9,000 patient visits annually. The center’s 40-plus staff members offer patients the medical care they need in one location. More than 50 scientists work in adjacent Berrie Center laboratories to investigate the causes and consequences of diabetes. The NIH-funded Diabetes and Endocrinology Research Center at Columbia University supports Berrie Center and collaborating scientists doing related research throughout Columbia University. The Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center is co-founded and co-directed by Robin Goland, MD, the J. Merrill Eastman Professor of Clinical Diabetes at Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Rudolph Leibel, MD, the Christopher J. Murphy Memorial Professor of Diabetes Research at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.
About the Nonna’s Garden Foundation
The Nonna’s Garden Foundation was founded in 2006 by Mike and Maria Repole in honor of Mike’s grandmother, Nonna. The son of Italian immigrants, Mike was raised in Middle Village, Queens, with his parents, Benny and Anna, his brother, Gerard, and his Nonna. Nonna was the matriarch of the family and spent hours tending to her garden; growing basil, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers—and she treated her family the same way—with an abundance of love and care. One of the most important lessons from Nonna was to always give back: give people what they want and you’ll get in life what you want. When Nonna was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2005, The Nonna’s Garden Foundation was created in her honor on her 80th birthday in 2006. Nonna lived 15 years after her terminal cancer diagnosis and passed away peacefully in May of 2020. During those 15 years, she continued to nurture her friends and family with tender loving care. The Nonna’s Garden Foundation supports various causes benefitting faith, health and education.
Editor's note: A version of this article was originally published by Columbia University Irving Medical Center.