$7.5 Million Gift to OU will Benefit Cancer Care and Research

Mike Seals - November 17, 2020 10:26 am

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – A $7.5 million leadership gift from Jim and Christy Everest and the E.L. and Thelma Gaylord Foundation will endow a world-class chief of pediatric hematology/oncology at the Oklahoma Children’s Hospital Jimmy Everest Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders in Children in partnership with OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center.

The funding will create a synergistic bridge between the two cancer research programs located on the OU Health Center campus, serving as a catalyst for the recruitment of additional researchers and further investment.

“This remarkable gift from the Everest and Gaylord families builds on their longstanding legacy of brightening our state’s future by investing in the well-being of others,” said OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. “Their extraordinary generosity will lead to the development of even more powerful treatments and transformative care, impacting children and families in their greatest time of need. Through this gift, the Oklahoma Children’s Hospital Jimmy Everest Center and Stephenson Cancer Center will stand together in a strengthened partnership emblematic of our university’s core purpose of changing lives. We are grateful for the Everest and Gaylord families and the generations of Oklahomans whose lives are better because of them.”

This funding will establish an endowed chair in the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine for the new leader of the Jimmy Everest Center and will be instrumental in the recruitment of five to eight additional researchers and faculty members — significantly enhancing the combined research efforts for pediatric and adult cancer. OU is seeking a candidate who is a respected and active leader at the national level with strong academic contributions and has a demonstrated track record of securing grant support, as well as those who proficient clinical educators with exceptional leadership experience.

Subsequent faculty hires will work alongside the section chief to explore and develop collaborative research programs and reorganize the clinical assignments of current faculty for maximum impact. This reorganization and collaboration with Stephenson Cancer Center will maximize the investigators’ academic pursuits, enhance trial patient accruals, result in new translational research collaborations and grow the center’s investigator-initiated trials among pediatric hematology and oncology disciplines.

“This generous gift is in part a response to a challenge gift by the Stephenson family and will lay the foundation for establishing a nationally recognized research program in children’s cancer and hematologic diseases at the OU Health Center,” said Dr. Robert Mannel, director, Stephenson Cancer Center. This donation will help align and synergize the research being done on our campus and will strengthen our National Cancer Institute Designated Cancer Center status, which is a great win for Oklahomans of all ages.”

This investment by the Everest family will drive the vision and strategy that will continue OU’s pursuit of clinical, educational and research excellence at both the state and national levels. The position also exhibits a commitment to convergent research, a strategy outlined in OU’s research strategic framework aimed at tackling complex problems that impact our society by working across academic disciplines.

“From the time of the original gift from Jim and Christy Everest that founded the Jimmy Everest Center in September 1995, the Everests have been steadfastly committed to advancing care for children with cancer and other blood disorders in Oklahoma,” said Dr. Morris Gessouroun, chairman of pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. “This generous new gift will serve to build on that prior support enabling the recruitment of a nationally recognized expert in childhood cancer and blood disorders to become the next leader of the program; advance and expand our ongoing efforts in childhood cancer research; build synergy between the Oklahoma Children’s Hospital Jimmy Everest Center and the NCI-designated OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center; and bring new cutting-edge treatments to the children of Oklahoma.”

The Jimmy Everest Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders in Children, located at Oklahoma Children’s Hospital — OU Health, is the state’s only comprehensive center for pediatric hematology/oncology care — averaging 120 or more new cancer diagnoses every year, actively following over 400 children with malignancies, performing 15,000 outpatient visits and providing nearly 5,000 inpatient hospital days. The Jimmy Everest Center is designed to improve the treatment experience for a child, and the child’s family, when faced with cancer or a blood disorder. Staffed by OU Health Physicians, the child-friendly center is a child’s best resource for receiving cancer and blood disorder treatment, along with emotional and mental support.

Stephenson Cancer Center is Oklahoma’s only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center and is the largest and most comprehensive oncology practice in the state, delivering patient-centered, multidisciplinary care for every type of cancer. As one of the country’s leading research organizations, Stephenson Cancer Center uses the latest innovations to fight and eliminate cancer and is currently ranked No. 1 among all cancer centers in the nation for the number of patients participating in NCI-sponsored treatment trials.

“The idea for this generous gift came directly from Christy and Jimmy as they continued their leadership roles for both the Oklahoma Children’s Hospital Jimmy Everest Center and Stephenson Cancer Center,” said Jason Sanders, M.D., MBA, senior vice president and provost of the OU Health Sciences Center and acting chair of the board of OU Medicine. “The Everests saw the opportunity to expand interdisciplinary research and clinical trials across pediatric and adult patients, and to leverage new grants and capabilities from the National Institutes of Health following National Cancer Institute designation. This gift will accelerate OU’s national leadership in disease-focused research centers, and most importantly improve health outcomes for Oklahomans and their families.”

The Everest family established the center in honor of James “Jimmy” Christopher Everest, who died in 1992 at the age of 17 after a brave bout with bone cancer. This gift extends their mission to provide outstanding, personalized care for children and adolescents with oncologic and hematologic disorders in Oklahoma and enhance the treatment experience for every child and their family.

“We are proud of our long-standing relationship with the Jimmy Everest Center and the Stephenson Cancer Center, both very dear to our hearts,” said Jim and Christy Everest. “We are excited that this gift will bring support for both institutions. Like most Oklahoma families, ours has been greatly impacted by cancer. We are so grateful that Oklahoma families including ours have received the best treatment available from world-class doctors in a compassionate setting without having to leave home.

“We are so proud that Oklahoma has these two centers of excellence and appreciate that our family members have benefited greatly from their care,” the Everests added. “There is a lack of pediatric cancer research funding not only in Oklahoma but in the nation. It has been our hope that the Jimmy Everest Center and Stephenson Cancer Center could collaborate in this area to the benefit of all. With the need to recruit a new Section Chief of the Jimmy Everest Center following Dr. Bill Meyer’s retirement and the generous matching campaign from Charles and Peggy Stephenson for the Stephenson Cancer Center we felt it was the opportune time to invest in the future of both.”

This gift will affect an equal gift for cancer research made possible through the generosity of Peggy and Charles Stephenson’s matching gift campaign. To donate and support OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center’s commitment to raising an additional $20 million in our fight against cancer, visit www.ouhealth.com/ways-to-give/.


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