Philanthropy News from The Miriam
Center for Innovative Cancer Research
In 2021, The Miriam Hospital Gala & Auction fund-a-need supported the creation of the Stephen and Diana Lewinstein Center for Innovative Cancer Research at The Miriam Hospital.
The new center, which held its “open house” May 23, 2023, establishes The Miriam as a leading provider for advanced, highly novel cancer treatments—giving hope to patients whose cancers have advanced, despite receiving all standard treatments, and are searching for the most advanced options to extend their lives.
“Opening the center has ignited a new trajectory for oncology care at The Miriam,” says Benedito A. Carneiro, MD, Director of the Clinical Research, Cancer Drug Development, and Associate Director of Division of Hematology/ Oncology. “It represents the cornerstone of an exciting and rapidly growing program and expands The Miriam’s reputation for providing cutting-edge cancer care—enabling us to become a regional referral hub for new drug development, where patients will have access to promising new treatments.” A recent example was the center being able to treat a patient with one of the most promising immunotherapies for prostate cancer in the world.
Inspiring Breast Cancer Survivor, Advocate Stops by The Miriam on Nationwide Campaign
Part of the Lifespan Cancer Institute, the Breast Cancer Multidisciplinary Clinic at The Miriam Hospital offers patients the highest level of expertise in breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, and support.
Recently, the clinic had a special visitor when Agnes Judge, a breast cancer survivor and inspiring patient advocate from North Charleston, South Carolina, stopped by The Miriam as part of her cross-country public awareness campaign. Her tour, which has received national media attention, is intended to stress the importance of regular screenings and early detection.
“I want to inspire and encourage women to get their yearly mammograms and to know that a breast cancer diagnosis is not a death sentence, it's the beginning of fighting for your life,” said Agnes, who is visiting one cancer center in each state to deliver that hopeful message. To date, Agnes has nearly finished her tour of East Coast facilities and is hoping to complete her entire journey over the next three years.
Aside from sharing her powerful personal cancer story—which began when she was diagnosed in 2019 and has included several lumpectomies and a double mastectomy—Agnes is also generously donating $1000 at each of her 50 stops, including The Miriam. That money will go to support the hospital’s cancer patient assistance fund.
Agnes says she is grateful for the lifesaving care she has received from her providers over the years, and just wants to pay it forward. But the providers at The Miriam are also grateful to Agnes and were honored by her visit. Staff commented that her words were empowering and energizing, and her generous gift was greatly appreciated.
“I want to empower and motivate breast cancer survivors, with or without a double mastectomy, to live their lives to its fullest,” Agnes concludes. “Because it's yours!”
Philanthropy in Action
Lung Screening and Nodule Program
Dollars raised from the 2022 Miriam Hospital Gala & Auction fund-a-need were targeted for the creation of The Lung Screening and Nodule Program at The Miriam Hospital, which officially opened April 7, 2023. The program brings together recognized leaders and specialists in a range of disciplines who provide the expertise and coordinated care necessary to meet the specific needs of each patient, beginning the moment a potentially cancerous lung nodule or mass is detected.
“Lung cancer is still the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, claiming the lives of more men and women each year than colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined,” explains Hina Khan, MD, a medical oncologist at The Miriam. “Early detection is critical to successful treatment, and now patients in southeastern New England have access to a first-of-its-kind clinic dedicated exclusively to this specific care.”
Dr. Khan adds that a Nodule Tumor Board is also planned as part of the clinic’s work. The board will convene to discuss each case with the multidisciplinary team—comprised of pulmonary, radiology, thoracic surgery, radiation oncology, and medical oncology experts—and offer relevant recommendations. Additionally, the clinic’s work will complement Lifespan Cancer Institute’s ongoing research focusing on lung cancer screening in underserved populations.
Annual Event Celebrates People, Philanthropy, and The Miriam’s Driving Purpose
On October 17, 2023, The Miriam Hospital Foundation hosted its Annual Meeting and Miriam People Celebration of Tradition at the Providence Marriott. The event was attended by more than 110 guests, who were eager to celebrate the power of philanthropy, recognize the impact of legacy supporters, and get the latest news and updates about their beloved hospital.
Susan Kaplan, Chair of The Miriam’s Foundation Board of Trustees, kicked off the evening expressing gratitude and deep appreciation for the hospital’s supporters.
“For nearly a century, The Miriam has been blessed with a donor community whose generosity knows no bounds and whose philanthropy has made a direct impact on the lives of near countless patients and their families,” Susan said. “Over the past year, that spirit and tradition of giving shined as bright as ever.”
The Miriam Hospital Receives $1 Million to Support Nursing Education, Retention
Through the creation of The Carol and Fred Levinger Nursing Excellence Fund, Miriam nurses can access student loan repayment and tuition assistance
Inspired to give back following the patient experience of a family member, Carol and Fred Levinger have made a gift of $1 million to The Miriam Hospital. The funds will establish The Carol and Fred Levinger Nursing Excellence Fund to support the hospital’s award-winning nurses with student loan repayment and tuition assistance.
“I cannot overstate the extraordinary level of care our loved one received, or the difference that care made in their outcome,” said Fred Levinger. “It inspired us to give, and recognizing there is a national shortage of nurses, we wanted to do something impactful to make a difference here.”
A primary driver of the new Fund is to further deepen The Miriam’s recruitment and retention program for nurses. The hospital enjoys a rich tradition of nursing, and with this gift, it will support career development for the next generation of nurses while advancing opportunities for continued nursing education.
The Miriam has received the coveted Magnet distinction for nursing excellence six consecutive times. The accomplishment places The Miriam among an elite group of hospitals internationally to achieve the 4-year designation this number of times. In the United States, it is one of only a handful of hospitals to attain the prestigious mark. Magnet recognition is awarded by the American Nurses Credentialing Center and is the highest honor available for professional nursing practice.
“The Levinger’s gift represents transformational philanthropy – we are beyond grateful to Carol and Fred for their generosity and for their commitment to the vital role nurses play at The Miriam,” said Maria Ducharme, DNP, RN, President of The Miriam Hospital. “Always, but especially during these trying times, we want our nurses and clinical staff to feel valued and appreciated. It is tremendous that we will now be able to invest even more in the skills of our people, directly impacting patient care.”
Added Carol Levinger, “It is one thing to hear or read stories about the difference nurses make in the delivery of care; it is something else entirely when you experience it through a member of your family. The Miriam is a special place when it comes to nursing, and we wanted to give back to help ensure that continues well into the future.”
Gift Enables New Cancer Registry
More than 1,300 Rhode Islanders will face a diagnosis of genitourinary cancer this year, and the state has disproportionally high rates of bladder cancer, in particular.
Thanks to a $25,000 grant from the Rhode Island Foundation, experts from The Miriam Hospital’s Minimally Invasive Urology Institute (MIUI) are now conducting research to learn more about the reasons why.
The grant has allowed the MIUI to establish a first-of-its-kind registry of urologic cancers to advance research, promote prevention, address treatment disparities, and improve health outcomes for Rhode Island residents. To create the HIPAA-compliant registry, researchers from the institute are studying decades’ worth of medical records from patients previously treated at Lifespan hospitals for genitourinary cancers, including those of the prostate, kidney, and bladder.
“We’re looking at over 200 different data elements— everything from a patient’s age to where they lived, their diet, possible chemical exposure, the type of cancer, and the extent of the disease,” says Christopher Tucci, RN, Manager of the Minimally Invasive Urology Institute. The project highlights the institute’s commitment to not only treating but also preventing the development of urologic cancers in the community.
“By better understanding risk factors, we will be able to promote healthy behaviors and lifestyles, improve screening and prevention to Rhode Islanders while reducing the burden of disease,” said Dragan Golijanin, MD, Co-director of the Minimally Invasive Urology Institute and Director of Genitourinary Oncology at The Miriam Hospital.
To learn more about this project, please call the foundation office at 401-793-2805.
Generous Gift Expands Lyme Center’s Capabilities
Tis the season...for ticks. And that’s not good news around here, because Rhode Island has a high incidence of tick-borne illness, specifically Lyme disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there were 7,983 total cases of Lyme disease in Rhode Island between 2000 and 2016. But their data only counts confirmed cases reported to them, which, the CDC acknowledges, represent just a fraction of the actual volume and the real number could be 10 times higher!
“Not everyone who has Lyme disease has the telltale bull’s-eye rash, is administered a course of antibiotics, and recovers quickly,” says Timothy Flanigan, MD, Infectious Diseases. “Far more, unfortunately, have symptoms that can be vague and mimic those of countless other conditions. So, patients may go to their primary doctor complaining of chronic fatigue and lethargy, headaches, stiffness, fever, chills, body aches, joint pains, etc., and be told it’s something else—when in fact, it’s Lyme disease or another tick-borne illness.”
Dr. Flaningan serves as co-director of the Lifespan Lyme Disease Center at The Miriam, alongside Jennie Johnson, MD, from the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brown Medicine. The center has infectious disease specialists working in collaboration with behavioral health specialists, physical therapists, and other health care professionals to offer an innovative, multi-faceted approach to treatment that’s specifically designed to help patients feel and function better and achieve their health goals.
A recent grant from the Collis Foundation—an organization that has been making grants to Rhode Island nonprofits that support family, education, and health for nearly 25 years—will enable providers to see more patients. “The Miriam has a sophistication and expertise around the Lyme complex that no in-hospital program locally can match,” says Frohman Anderson, a director of the Collis Foundation. “So, we’re proud to support them as they build on their already stellar work.”
Specifically, the Collis Foundation will be matching all donor gifts to the center for the next two years up to a total of $100,000. The money will be used to hire and train a nurse practitioner to expand access to more patients. “We invite our fellow Rhode Islanders to join us in helping to advance The Miriam’s Lyme Center capabilities,” Frohman adds, “because our state is really underserved in this area.”
Frohman’s own family has been waging a difficult, complicated battle against the disease for years. His son and daughter suffer from chronic Lyme disease, as does his sister and two of her children.
“It’s a significant public health concern that touches many lives,” Dr. Flanigan reiterates, “and without this gift, we would not be able to expand our services or fulfill our vision. So, we are extremely grateful to the Collis Foundation for their support.”
The Miriam Combines Annual Meeting and Miriam People Celebration to Create Memorable Night
On November 17, 2022, The Miriam Hospital Foundation hosted its Annual Meeting and Miriam People Celebration of Tradition at the Providence Marriott. The event, held in person after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, was attended by more than 80 guests—who were eager to celebrate the power of philanthropy, recognize the impact of legacy supporters, and get the latest news and updates about their beloved hospital.
Susan Kaplan, Chair of The Miriam’s Foundation Board of Trustees, kicked off the evening acknowledging the challenges of the past few years, but was forward-looking in her remarks, saying: “Instead of focusing on the crisis we have lived through, it is important to reflect on how we were able to band together and accomplish what we did, all in the name of providing the highest quality health care to our community.”
Brown Students Pump Iron, Raise Funds in Support of The Miriam Hospital
On Monday, October 18, the Brown University Football Team hosted its 17th Annual “Bench Press for Cancer” on the main green of campus. The event, which resumed after a one-year hiatus due to COVID-19, continues a longstanding tradition of raising thousands of dollars to benefit the Cancer Survivorship Program at The Miriam, which is a principal teaching hospital for Brown University's Warren Alpert Medical School.
A first-of-its-kind in Rhode Island, the Cancer Survivorship Program provides long-term evaluation, health education, and emotional support for the unique needs of young adult cancer survivors. It also assigns a dedicated nurse practitioner to work with survivors and help them live the healthiest, fullest lives possible once treatment has completed.
Launched in 2004, “Bench Press for Cancer” was established by the Brown Football Team to help former teammate and team captain Lawrence Rubida and his family pay for the medical bills associated with his battle against Ewing’s Sarcoma. Sadly, Lawrence passed away in 2005, but the team has continued the event to honor his memory.
“I knew Lawrence personally,” says Paul Frisone, director of player development for Brown Football and a facilitator of the annual event. “He was an amazing young man, a great player, and awesome in every way. To keep his spirit alive with this event brings a measure of comfort to all of us here at Brown and beyond—because we all know someone who has been affected by this terrible disease.”
Paul estimates that between 200 and 300 student-athletes, faculty and staff will participate in this year’s event in some capacity and that local families will benefit from the support. “What we’re doing is truly a community-based effort and that’s important to us,” he adds.
Since its inception, “Bench Press for Cancer” has raised more than $100,000 for The Miriam’s renowned cancer program, and donations to this year’s effort will continue to be collected by the Brown Football Team through the end of the semester. An announcement of the total raised is expected in early 2022.