The Pursuit of the Medical Common Good

6, 7, 8

Learners explore that government and non-profit organizations together help bring about breakthroughs in modern science and medicine. These contributions to the common good require the support of philanthropists, large and small.

PrintOne 50-Minute Session

The learner will:

  • distinguish how different sectors contribute to medical breakthroughs.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Ask what young people remember about the Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014. That summer, people all over the world raised money for ALS research, a currently incurable disease, by pouring ice water over their heads. Discuss the value of giving money to a nonprofit organization concerned with curing a disease. How can citizens make a difference even with a dollar?

  2. Go over the following terms. Explain that scientific breakthroughs are possible because they are funded by the government, foundations, for-profit organizations and nonprofit organizations. Scientific breakthroughs benefit the common good. Those who contribute time, talent or funds to support scientific and medical breakthroughs are philanthropists, whether their contribution is large or small.

    • philanthropy: The giving of one’s time, talent or treasure for the sake of another, or for the common good; voluntary action for the public good
    • common good: Involves individual citizens having the commitment and motivation to promote the welfare of the community (even if they must sacrifice their own time, personal preferences or money) to work together with other members for the greater benefit of all
    • for-profit organization: An organization that is in business to make money for its owners
    • nonprofit organization: An organization whose income is not used for the benefit or private gain of stockholders, directors or any other persons with an interest in the company
    • foundation: An organization created from special funds from which the income is distributed as grants to not-for-profit organizations or, in some cases, to people
    • scientific breakthrough: A long-awaited medical discovery which will contribute to humanity
    • government: the governing body of a nation
  3. Have small groups conduct a little Internet research to identify some medical breakthroughs and how they came about. You may assign the breakthroughs in advance. The groups share what they found with the whole group. 

    • What is necessary to create a medical breakthrough, such as the vaccine for COVID-19? (societal issue, medical problem, improvement in quality of life, equipment, new ideas, etc.)
    • Where do breakthroughs happen? (research facilities, minds of people as new ideas, etc.)
  4. Discuss all means of funding: for profit organizations (drug companies, for example), non-profit organizations (universities, hospitals, foundations, for example) or private donations from citizens (philanthropy). In what ways can citizens contribute to scientific or medical research? (time, talent, treasure) Why would the government allocate funds for research and distribution of medicines?

  5. Distribute the homework assignment Show Me the Money! (homework). Go over the directions for spending the inheritance from Aunt Gertrude.

  6. Explain that "giving" is a part of our country’s history. Review the Learning to Give timeline, noting organizations or groups that were created to help the common good. Ask learners to evaluate which organizations were most important in their eyes starting with 1775 and ending in 1900. 

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define philanthropy as individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world. Give examples.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.6 Identify significant contributions to society that come from the civil society sector.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 06. Philanthropy in History
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Explain the role of philanthropy in major themes and social issues in the nation's history.