Hyundai Gift Seeds Miller School Cancer Program

With grateful survivors of childhood cancer in the audience, officials of Hyundai Motor America presented the Department of Pediatrics with a check for $100,000 last week to establish a Children’s Cancer Survivorship Program to treat and minimize the late effects and complications from successful cancer therapies.

As Steven E. Lipshultz, M.D., chair of pediatrics, noted before accepting the grant, advances in treatment and research have dramatically improved survival rates from childhood cancer over the decades, but the improved therapies also have increased long-term complications, such as heart abnormalities and cognitive deficits, that require continued, multidisciplinary monitoring.

“Our feeling has always been that cancer is a lifelong diagnosis and it involves a lifetime commitment,” Lipshultz said at the September 19 ceremony. “There are so many issues that we’ve learned from this first generation of remarkable survivors.”

The Miller School, one of 68 centers to receive a Hyundai “Hope on Wheels” grant this month from the auto company and its dealers, will use the money to create a comprehensive medical home for survivors of childhood cancer and the team of cardiologists, developmental pediatricians, psychologists, oncologists, nutritionists and other specialists needed to treat and monitor them. By providing critical data on the late effects of current therapies, the program also will help the University continue its research endeavors aimed at developing cancer therapies with fewer side effects and less long-term damage, Lipshultz said.

John Hyland, Hyundai’s regional sales manager, said the goals of the auto company, which has donated more than $23 million nationwide since 1999 to fight pediatric cancer, are in close sync with the University’s.

“We have a bold vision, a bold target, that one day no child in the world has to suffer from cancer,” Hyland said. “We may still have a long way to go, but that’s not going to stop us, and we know it’s not going to stop anybody in this room.”

Cancer certainly didn’t stop Kristen Davis. Diagnosed with leukemia at age 4, the 15-year-old from Palm Beach County said she has been cancer-free for the past nine years. And now, she said, she can worry less about cancer survivors who need long-term follow-up care.

“It’s just so amazing to know that people actually care about survivors, too,” she said. “Just knowing that there’s money going toward that is so awesome.”

Daniel Armstrong, Ph.D., associate chair of pediatrics and director of the Mailman Center for Child Development, already knows the investment will pay huge dividends. He noted that more than 50 percent of the childhood cancer survivors who received college scholarships from the Florida Division of the American Cancer Society over the past 15 years have gone on to graduate or professional school, pursuing careers in such fields as medicine, nursing, psychology and education, and establishing many non-profit and charitable organizations.

“What we are creating by focusing on survivorship is not just addressing the challenges these young people will have,” Armstrong said. “We are supporting the people who are going to move and change the world, not just in cancer, but in every area that we walk. That’s what survivorship is really all about. That’s what this program is all about.”

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