Program Background and History
The Whitaker Foundation was created and funded by U.A. Whitaker upon his death in 1975.  His wife, Helen, who shared in his philanthropy during his lifetime, joined him in bequeathing a significant portion of her estate to the Foundation when she died in 1982. Throughout its history, the Foundation primarily supported interdisciplinary medical research, with a focus on biomedical engineering.  It contributed more than $700 million to universities and medical schools to support faculty research, graduate students, program development, and construction of facilities. Most of its efforts were directed toward the establishment and enhancement of formal educational programs and the support of especially talented students and faculty.

After 30 years of support for the development of biomedical engineering in the United States, The Whitaker Foundation felt that it had achieved its primary objective of helping the American biomedical engineering field grow into a legitimate widespread discipline. In 2006, the Foundation ceased operations, and committed its remaining funds to a grant program focused on strengthening international collaborative links between young leaders in BME worldwide. Under the guidance of the a Steering Committee and the Institute of International Education, the Whitaker International Program is designed to bring international experience and insight to the field of biomedical engineering.

In its first six years, the Whitaker Fellows and Scholars Program provided over 200 grants to individuals in Biomedical Engineering and related fields to conduct projects in over 25 countries worldwide.  This Program aims to fund approximately 50 high-quality projects each year.

In 2011, in an effort to further expand opportunities in BME, the Whitaker Steering Committee established the Whitaker Undergraduate Scholarship Program to support a period of study abroad, and the Whitaker Summer Program, to support short-term study/research/internship opportunities abroad for those in Master’s and PhD programs.  The numbers of opportunities in these two programs varies each year.

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At its close, the Whitaker Foundation transferred "" to the Whitaker International Program, to steward the name and the cause of promoting the growth and enhancement of biomedical engineering.  Click here for more information about the Whitaker Foundation and its archives.

Institute of International Education
The Institute of International Education (IIE) is a world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas. Founded in 1919 as an independent, not-for-profit organization, IIE works to solve global problems and to foster mutual understanding among the peoples of the world. Our mission is to:

  • Promote closer educational relations between the people of the United States and other countries;
  • Increase the number of students, scholars, and professionals who have the opportunity to study, teach, and conduct research outside of their own countries;
  • Strengthen and internationalize institutions of higher learning throughout the world;
  • Foster sustainable development through training and technical assistance programs; and
  • Partner with corporations, foundations, and governments in finding and developing people able to think and work on a global basis.

On an annual basis, the Institute manages more than 250 programs, including the Fulbright Student and Scholar Programs, which IIE has administered on behalf of the U.S. Department of State since 1946. Dedicated to the goal of Opening Minds to the World and the creation of a new generation of global citizens, IIE programs benefit approximately 20,000 men and women from 175 nations each year. Our sponsors include the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), major philanthropic foundations, private and public corporations, foreign governments, and numerous individuals.

The Institute is strongly committed on behalf of The Whitaker Foundation to continuing to contribute to the career development of future leaders in the field of biomedical engineering, fostering greater international cooperation within the biomedical engineering community, and honoring the commitment of Mr. Whitaker. We believe this program represents an important opportunity for the American scientific community. Within the past decade, few new sources of funding have emerged to support study abroad programs for American students and professionals. Building on the vision of Mr. Whitaker, the Whitaker International Programs will help a new generation of American biomedical engineers gain essential international experience and become true global citizens.

To find out more information on IIE or its programs, visit