Donation of $1.2 million to benefit regional cancer center
Gift given by Briscoe family in memory of Kate Marmion. The dream of a regiongal cancer treatment center took a giant step toward reality recently with a $1.2 million donation by former Texas Gov. Dolph Briscoe and the Briscoe family.
Dr. John Shudde (right) accepts a check for the cancer center from Gov. Dolph Briscoe and his daughter Janey Briscoe Marmion
The dream of a regional cancer treatment center took a giant step toward reality recently with a $1.2 million donation by former Texas Gov. Dolph Briscoe and the Briscoe family.
It brings the fundraising effort for the $5-million project near the halfway mark when added to an earlier unrestricted gift of $1.2 million given by the Archie Jones estate to Uvalde Memorial Hospital, which the board voted to use for the center to show the hospitalʼs commitment to the project.
Briscoe and his daughter, Janey Briscoe Marmion, have also agreed to serve as honorary co-chairs of the Saving Lives Close to Home Capital Campaign to raise the remaining $2.6 million needed to fund the 20,000-square-foot center that will, among other things, offer radiation therapy for cancer patients in the region who currently have to travel to San Antonio for the service.
“This center is a vital part of the growth of our medical services to become truly a regional medical center. In addition, it will be of tremendous help to those who need to use the facility and will not have to be away from home,” Briscoe said of the impetus for the gift.
Uvalde Memorial Hospital Chief Executive Officer Jim Buckner said the gift is tremendous and he believes it is the largest ever made by an individual to any local institution in recent memory.
“We donʼt know of a more generous gift made locally,” Buckner said.
“Heʼs blessed us even further by agreeing to serve as co-chair with his daughter,” Buckner said. “Weʼre delighted, pleased, honored that he would agree to lead this capital campaign.”
The gift was given in memory of Briscoeʼs granddaughter, the late Kate Marmion, daughter of Janey and Jim Marmion, who died Jan. 16.
“This would mean a lot to Kate because it will help the people that she always wanted to help,” Briscoe said.
The center, which will be located on land adjacent to the hospital donated by the late Joseph Puccini, certainly will help residents of Uvalde, Dimmit, Edwards, Kinney, Maverick, Medina, Real, Val Verde and Zavala counties, Buckner said, calling the gift and the goal of construction of the center “an opportunity to do good things for the community.”
“We already have oncology. This will complete the package,” Dr. John Shudde, co-chairman of the Capital Campaign Committee, said. “What a blessing it is to have this available.”
“The need is here,” Buckner said. “Cancer touches every family at some point or another.”
When prescribed for a cancer patient, radiation treatments are usually given daily for a period of weeks. Each treatment typically takes less than 30 minutes from the time a patient walks in for treatment until they leave, but travel time from Uvalde to San Antonio and back adds approximately four hours.
One-way travel from other sites in the region range from 40 miles to 154 miles. That means patients who are employed miss much work time. For those paid on an hourly basis, that translates to lost income. Because of that, many patients donʼt take the treatments.
“Itʼs one thing for a patient to travel in there. But they have to have someone go with them,” Shudde said. “We serve a regional area that should benefit many people for years to come.”
The regional aspect of the project is important.
“What we see is a lot of needless suffering,” Buckner said. “Having these services closer to home can make all the difference.”
Briscoeʼs gift was presented in the form of a challenge grant to encourage others in the community to donate to the effort.
“Gov. Briscoe has made that challenge, made that gift, made that commitment,” Buckner said. “His gift brings us very close to the halfway mark.”
It also means the possibility of additional services, including cardiology, at the center.
“As it turns out we lost a good cardiologist from active practice,” said Buckner, referring to the fact the Dr. Jamil Bitar recently relocated to San Antonio. While Bitar continues to see patients in Uvalde, Buckner is working with the University of Texas Health Science Center and Dr. Steven Bailey, who treats many area residents, to fill the void left in the hospital staff by Bitarʼs move.
“We are talking with Dr. Bailey and hope to have them engaged with us,” Buckner said of the possible UTHSC affiliation.
Having radiation therapy available to area residents combined with the presence of a staff cardiologist at the hospital would be a great thing, Buckner said, not only medically but also economically.
“Itʼs more jobs, itʼs more services here locally. Itʼs what we want as a community, to grow our services as a community and to be more self-sufficient.”
Serving with Briscoe and Marmion on the Capital Campaign Committee are co-chairmen Roger Berry and Dr. John Shudde, Lewis Bracy Jr., Vicente Gonzales III, Bill Kessler, Carol Kothmann, Rene Nolasco, Joe Parker, Alexis Petty and Janet White.
Uvalde Memorial Hospital staff members on the committee include Buckner, project development coordinator Sheri Rutledge and cost accountant Rose Puente.