Alumni Profile in Giving

Alumnus Takes Up the 250th Anniversary Scholarship 1:1 Matching Challenge

Peter Wortsman

Craig Granowitz

What I have accomplished is relatively small in the grand scheme of things,” says Craig Granowitz’90 MD/’93 PhD. He is a biomedical researcher who, through his career at Schering Plough, Merck, and other biomedical companies, applied his knowledge in harnessing biomedical discoveries to help people live healthier and longer lives, contributing to these companies’ success. 

“It’s a privilege to bring new medicines to market and impact people’s lives—and it’s truly a team effort. I never forget how success depends on tapping the skills and ideals of others,” he says. Fulfilling what he perceives as his societal responsibility, Dr. Granowitz committed $250,000 to establish the Jack M. and Sheila H. Granowitz Scholarship Fund at VP&S to honor his parents and support future students. His commitment was matched 1:1 by P. Roy Vagelos’54 in celebration of the 250th anniversary of the medical school. Together with his wife, Diana, Dr. Vagelos, the former Merck & Co. chairman and CEO, donated money to endow a fund to help VP&S eliminate loans for students with the most need.

“I was going to give regardless,” Dr. Granowitz acknowledges. “However, Dr. Vagelos’ challenge to alumni was an added incentive, and the anniversary is a unique milestone. I consider my gift an opportunity to support this great institution, to help future students benefit from an educational experience, and express appreciation to my alma mater for giving me the foundation to support my career interests. I’m supporting an academic vanguard that seeks to make people’s lives better.” 

Dr. Granowitz looks back at his role as head of a dynamic marketing group at Schering Plough from 1999 to 2006 that advanced a therapeutic agent to treat hepatitis C. Doing a world of good also built a $2.5 billion business. “We can now cure hep C in more than 95 percent of patients with 12 weeks of treatment. Amazing.” At Schering he also led teams that supported therapeutic agents in opiate addiction and HIV management. Later, when Merck acquired Schering, he built a global medical affairs group at one of the world’s largest biomedical companies. He is currently chief medical officer at Amarin Pharmaceuticals, a company engaged in global clinical trials of a medicine called Vascepa. The drug could treat between 20 million and 40 million Americans with elevated baseline triglycerides, shown to be a common cause and possible high-risk marker for myocardial infarction or stroke. 

A little more than a decade and a half into his career, he felt it was time to give back and connect with educational institutions and with students. In addition to supporting VP&S, Dr. Granowitz served on the American Heart Association New York City Board of Directors and the advisory boards of the American Associates of Ben Gurion University and Rabbinical College of America in Morristown, N.J.

Philanthropy fits with his philosophy of enlightened self-interest. “Thankfully, I’ve been given so many wonderful opportunities in life and have prospered. Now, gratefully, I can reinvest some of this prosperity to help others.” His attachment to future students is heartfelt. “I see my best self in them. This is a highly idealistic generation that recognizes the imperfections of the world. In giving them a boost, I’m hoping they will apply their knowledge and skills to help others. In this way, I am ‘extending myself’ to continue to do good by encouraging others to unleash their potential.”

To Dr. Granowitz, VP&S and the medical center are very much a family affair. His father, Jack Marks Granowitz, an engineer, came to Columbia in the early 1980s to help launch what was then called Columbia Technology Transfer and is today known as Columbia Technology Ventures. His brother, Eric Granowitz’85, is an infectious disease specialist. His mother, Sheila Granowitz, as a patient has benefited from the medical center’s quality of care. Dr. Granowitz remembers fondly visiting her every day after classes in his first year of medical school during one of her hospital stays. “Seeing her was like my going home from school for my snack when I was a kid. It made us both feel a little better.” His support of VP&S comes from the Granowitz Family Foundation, of which his older daughter is a board member.