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The Beginning of a Lifelong Search for Medical Solutions
Three years after Mike Milken begins his legendary career on Wall Street, his wife Lori informs him of the terrible news that her mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Mike begins his education about medical research – an area he’ll focus on, and improve, over the following four-plus decades. At the time, it had only been a year since President Nixon declared the nation’s “War on Cancer.” Mike’s quest for knowledge covers not only the science but also the infrastructure and financing to support research. While Lori’s mother would win her bout with breast cancer, she later was diagnosed with, and succumbed to, multiple myeloma (in 1984).
Mike’s father Bernard is told the malignant melanoma he had been diagnosed with two years earlier is terminal. The doctors say nothing can be done, but Mike refuses to accept that prognosis. He takes his father to leading melanoma experts at hospitals around the country, frantically looking for a solution. Finally, painfully, Mike comes to the conclusion that the science is simply not there to help his dad. Mike recalls his mother, Ferne, setting him straight: “Michael, I want to save your father as much as you do. But let me tell you the definition of a real problem. It’s something that can’t be solved with money. And I believe the doctors when they say this problem can’t be solved … period. So let’s accept what’s going to happen and make the most of the time he has left.” Mike agrees. He and Lori begin planning to move their family back to Los Angeles from New York so their kids can spend more time with their grandfather. Photo: Mike Milken with his father, Bernard, and sons Lance (left) and Gregory (right).
Formalizing his earlier philanthropy, Mike establishes the Milken Family Foundation with his brother Lowell. Medical research is among the philanthropy’s major areas of focus. Starting in the mid-1980s, MFF supports a cadre of young cancer researchers whose work opens several new lines of attack against the disease. These researchers today are recognized as true pioneers in their respective disciplines.