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Sheila and Dan Timm

The Gift of Life Grows into the Gift of Research

I am living proof that research works.

Sheila Timm

After receiving a liver transplant, Sheila Timm and her husband, Dan, created a family fund to get promising early-stage transplant research projects off the ground and speed lifesaving discoveries.

“My attitude is that I’m living my life, the sky is blue, and I will take the knocks that come along as I go forward—I’m not afraid,” Sheila says.

Sheila Timm is fearless after successfully battling breast cancer twice and then receiving a liver transplant during the height of the pandemic in 2020. That remarkable strength has allowed Sheila and her husband, Dan, to look at the future through a different lens and find ways to make a difference for others by supporting groundbreaking research


The Timms’ two children were young teens when Sheila was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000 at age 40—as a result of her first mammogram. While life went on after her surgery and radiation treatment, her health was never quite the same. Then nearly 20 years later, as she began struggling with liver disease, doctors found her breast cancer had returned.

Breast cancer surgery was another obstacle, as Sheila’s liver continued to deteriorate quickly.

Over the next year and a half, Sheila experienced peaks and valleys in her health. The turning point came in 2020, when she was hospitalized for a week in Colorado, far from the Timms’ St. Louis home. “Doctors told me my liver function was going in the wrong direction,” Sheila recalls.

Her condition was dire. “They told me with her declining health she had a 50% chance of dying then,” Dan says.

That’s when Sheila’s doctor, Jeff Crippin, MD, a Washington University liver specialist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, coordinated with doctors in Colorado to get Sheila back to St. Louis as safely and quickly as possible so she could be put on the transplant list at Barnes-Jewish.

“Dr. Crippin called me and said it was time to bring her back to St. Louis and that she would need a liver transplant within 14 days,” Dan says. “I about dropped the phone. We had discussed the possibility of a transplant a little bit before, but we didn’t think she would need one so fast.”

Because of the shortage of organs available for transplant nationwide, Sheila prepared to wait for months for a new liver. Miraculously, she received a liver transplant three days after being put on the transplant list. Her liver transplant took place Sept. 15, 2020, at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

“We chose Barnes-Jewish because of its reputation,” Sheila says. “We have access to the highest-ranking, quality doctors, so it was the trust factor for me.”

Dan agrees. “The benefit of being at a teaching research hospital like Barnes-Jewish Hospital is that it attracts the best and brightest minds, and we saw that in Sheila’s care.”

The Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center is the leading transplant center in the Midwest and has one of the most experienced liver transplant programs in the world. It is the only comprehensive transplant center in the region for heart, kidney, liver, pancreas, and lung transplants with outcomes that meet or exceed national averages.

Dan couldn’t be with Sheila the morning of her transplant because of restricted COVID-19 visiting hours. Understanding Dan’s fear during that difficult time, Dr. Crippin stepped in with compassion and care and called Dan to reassure him that he was sitting with Sheila, holding her hand, and that she was doing just fine.

The memory still brings tears to Dan’s eyes and fills Sheila with immense gratitude.

“Dr. Crippin truly cares about everyone he treats,” Sheila says. “It seemed like he took all the time in the world with me to answer every question. His partnership with Dr. Chapman, my transplant surgeon, created a solid team.”

Dr. Crippin is the co-chair of the Solid Organ Transplant Steering Committee and specializes in treating patients for liver disease before and after liver transplant. William Chapman, MD, is the surgical director of transplant surgery and specializes in liver transplantation in both adults and children.


Since Sheila’s liver transplant three years ago, the Timms have resumed traveling, spending time with their children and grandchildren, and finding even more ways to give back.

For more than a decade, Dan has been closely involved with Pedal the Cause, a cycling fundraiser that partners with The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital to support cancer research at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish and Washington University.

Dan is a former partner with Edward Jones, a major sponsor of the Foundation’s Illumination gala for cancer research and Pedal. The Timm family and Edward Jones teammates ride in Pedal every year. As a result, the Timms have raised more than $2.5 million for cancer research, making them the largest lifetime fundraisers for Pedal.

Through the partnership with Pedal and the Foundation, the Timms saw firsthand how seed money for early research can be leveraged for greater support. “This funding for cancer researchers has shown exponential results with at least an additional $12 in federal grant support for every dollar raised,” Dan explains.

The Timms also moved cancer research forward through their participation in the Foundation’s Illumination gala. At this year’s gala, the Timms issued a challenge and matched every $1,000 gift made at the event. Their enthusiasm inspired many people to give or add to their gifts, raising $102,000 that was matched by the Timms and “made giving $1,000 cool,” as an Edward Jones colleague told Dan after the event.

After experiencing the life-changing impact of transplant, the Timms decided they wanted to apply the same seed funding model to support transformative transplant research. In 2021, Dan and Sheila established The Timm Family Transplant Innovation Fund at The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

“We had a greater awareness of the need and saw that more people need organ transplants,” Dan says.

The Timms’ fund is designed to support pilot projects that get innovative ideas off the ground. Dr. Crippin and Dr. Chapman oversee the funding, and a committee of experts decides which pilot projects are funded.

The fund guarantees support for pilot projects that are leading to innovations in transplant research. These projects speed up discoveries through trial and error to get new treatments to patients faster. Pilot projects fuel future clinical and scientific advancements, allowing physicians and scientists to make basic scientific breakthroughs, engage in translational research, and bring lab discoveries into the practice of medicine.

“Seed funding for research is important because it supports tiny fish in the pond that often don’t get support,” Sheila says. “We’re comfortable with out-of-the-box ideas. These are the little jewels that go somewhere. But if they’re never funded, they can’t go anywhere.” Sheila and Dan Timm, 2023 Illumination Gala

She continues: “Some people wait until they see progress before they jump on board, but we think the opposite way. Seed funding is a more influential way to make progress.”


Sheila says her experience as a patient and working with the compassionate, expert medical staff inspired their gift.

“We started the fund as a thank you to Dr. Crippin and Dr. Chapman for their heart for what they do,” Sheila says. “We can’t pay them, so we made our gift toward something important to them, which is research. They’re both doing their part to make a difference. We can’t do our own research, but they can, or they know the best projects to support. So this was a thank you knowing they would make good use of the funds. We know more answers are out there. We have confidence in them because they showed us there’s more than one way to solve a problem, and they’re constantly looking for answers.”

Dan shares Sheila’s heartfelt gratitude for both the doctors and the organ donor who saved Sheila’s life. “The gift we were given of a new liver and the gift of the people who know how to put it in and make it work ... We hope our gift can help others have the same positive results as we’ve had.”

Dr. Crippin echoes the grateful sentiment. The Timms’ generosity makes him feel hopeful for the future. “Philanthropy gets a project off the ground,” he says. “To focus that at a single institution and at a single area of investigation is a huge step. It allows investigators to get the ball rolling, get initial results, and take those results to make additional decisions and get better answers long-term.”

He continues: “This is my job; this is my calling; this is what I’m supposed to do. I’m forever grateful for anyone who supports transplant through The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital. The Timms’ generosity knows no bounds. They’ve helped the transplant field in so many ways. Our hope is that the studies of today will lead to the treatments of tomorrow.”

Sheila and Dan emphasize that they’re not involved in who receives pilot project funding. “We put it in the hands of the experts, as it should be,” Sheila says. “We want the physicians and researchers to make the decisions about what the most promising projects are to fund.”


The Timms are energized and enthusiastic when they hear about the progress researchers are making thanks to their funding support of transplant pilot projects.

The first grant from the Timms’ fund supported Dr. Chapman’s RESTORE Declined Livers Study that tested a new technology called normothermic machine perfusion (NMP). NMP reconditions donated livers that typically may have been declined or discarded because they were considered poor quality or marginal. NMP enables organ function to be tested before the liver is transplanted.

In Dr. Chapman’s study, researchers tested NMP on 22 marginal livers. After NMP, 16 of those 22 livers became viable and were able to be transplanted into patients. Interim results of the RESTORE trial suggest that a sizable number of declined livers can be reclaimed. This is crucial given the demand for liver transplant outpaces the available organ supply. Use of this technology will help increase availability of organs to patients previously unlikely to receive a liver transplant.

“Supporting this kind of progress to save more lives is so exciting,” Dan says. “The things they do today, they couldn’t do yesterday. And the impact these discoveries will have is life-changing.”

“We love seeing the results of our funding." Sheila says. "That’s why we decided to give now, while we’re here to see the impact. Why wait? When you give, it fills you up, and it’s fun to do.”


As a former financial advisor and partner with Edward Jones, Dan clearly understands the impact that charitable giving can make on a family and on an organization.

“We got to know Ted and Pat Jones, who built a firm that focused on serving others,” Dan says. “They were good role models for the spirit of sharing and giving back. They gave their money away, and we saw how happy they were.”

The Timm Family Transplant Innovation Fund is creating a similar family legacy. Sheila and Dan were both raised on generosity and service and have immersed their two adult children, Eric and Ashley, in that same spirit.

“Our family is very much a part of this fund,” Sheila says. “It’s not just about Dan and me.”

Dan agrees. “We want the impact to go on and want to have our kids engaged, present, and involved now. Both our kids are very charitable.”


“I’m living proof that research works,” Sheila says. “The fact that I’m a two-time cancer survivor and could still receive a liver transplant is because of research. Before, I wouldn’t have been able to be put on a transplant list. Now, they know I’m worth the chance. I still think it’s a miracle I got on the list and then three days later had a transplant.”

Because of Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s transplant expertise and research, transplant surgeons are able to take on more challenging patients that other hospitals wouldn’t consider.

“Between cancer and a liver transplant, Sheila wouldn’t be here without research,” Dan adds. “Today’s treatments are better because of research, whether in the cancer or transplant fields.”

Sheila’s health experiences have reminded the Timms of their priorities in life. “For us, it’s faith, family, and the work we do,” Sheila says. “Our job now is to try to make a difference by being involved and giving researchers the resources they need to ask the right questions to the right people at the right time.”

When Sheila was in the hospital before her transplant, she was inspired by a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “What are you doing in service of others?” The quote also inspires Dan.

“We’re here for a reason,” Dan says. “We want to leverage what we’ve done by turning $1 into $2 or $2 into $8 or whatever else we can do to motivate someone else to give. That’s our next chapter in giving back.”

For more information about the Transplant Pilot Grant Program and the research that the Timms are helping to make possible, click here.