June 6, 2013

Event highlights crucial role of philanthropy at VUMC

Individuals who provide annual philanthropic support for key areas at Vanderbilt University Medical Center were recognized at the Canby Robinson Society Reception on May 21.

Individuals who provide annual philanthropic support for key areas at Vanderbilt University Medical Center were recognized at the Canby Robinson Society Reception on May 21.

In the last year, those recognized with membership in the Canby Robinson Society — more than 4,600 individuals — have contributed more than $16 million.

On hand at the Canby Robinson Society Reception were, from left, Jennifer McCarter, Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., and Mary Keith. (photo by Jesse Koska)

“Annual contributions, advocacy and devoted support of Vanderbilt’s mission are inspiring. Because of you, Vanderbilt University Medical Center is able to truly impact the health of millions across the country and around the world,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “Philanthropic support is critical for us — now more than ever — and every person at Vanderbilt experiences the effects of those gifts.”

Every day, charitable support makes a difference at Vanderbilt. The Scholarship Initiative, which kicked off in 2011, is focused on building a scholarship endowment to lower the debt burden and to support students like Mary DeAgostino, a third-year student at the School of Medicine and a recipient of the Jim and Jan Carell Scholarship.

“As a medical student at VUSM, it is very meaningful to me to see great support behind Vanderbilt,” said DeAgostino, who has been involved in service since high school, having spent time in Tanzania, Haiti and Lwala. “My scholarship has enabled me to take an extra year to study public health and to choose a specialty regardless of income.”

Long-time donor and CRS member Judy Simmons has served as a mentor for two VUSM students, and recognizes the need to provide scholarship support in order to attract and retain talented young people.

“CRS has been a wonderful experience,” said Simmons, who serves as a CRS board member and on the Canby Robinson Coalition to raise money for scholarships.

“I know from being with both of these girls that if there hadn’t been CRS scholarships, we wouldn’t have been blessed with both of them. It’s been a wonderful fit for me and for them.”

Philanthropy enhances the work being done at Vanderbilt, not only by training the next generation of health care providers but by making possible groundbreaking discoveries and bringing those to patients. Such support is necessary for Vanderbilt to continue to be a leader in scientific discovery.

“That’s why I was excited to be recruited here in 2009, in part to launch the personalized cancer medicine initiative,” said William Pao, M.D., director of Personalized Cancer Medicine and Cornelius Abernathy Craig Professor of Medicine, Cancer Biology and Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, and Ingram Associate Professor of Cancer Research.

“Vanderbilt was at the forefront of such personalized medicine, and I wanted to contribute to that vision in cancer. And we’ve managed to lead the nation in this area.

“Much of the work has been funded through grants from the federal government, but that source of funding is shrinking with budget cuts. Fortunately, at Vanderbilt, we have generous philanthropic donors who share our mission and values and want to contribute to the improvement of lives,” Pao said.

Through the generosity of donors, the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt was able to open a cancer treatment room for administering a rare but effective medication called meta-iodobenzylguanidine, otherwise known as the MIBG room.

The room is one of fewer than 10 in the country, and it is used to provide radioactive treatment to patients with neuroblastoma. Jennifer McCarter was among the first patients to use the room.

“Vanderbilt has not only kept me strong but it has saved my life. I have been blessed with the greatest doctors and nurses in America, and I would not trade that blessing for anything in the world,” McCarter said.

“I understand about philanthropy and giving; our community back home provided so much incredible support to me and my family. I know that donors helped to make the expansion of Children’s Hospital a reality. I know that money helps research.”

A new video highlighting the importance of philanthropy can be viewed online at www.vanderbilthealth.org/giving.