The Kalish Family Dedicates the Endowed Chair in Stem Cell Transplantation
A standing-room only crowd celebrated the official dedication of The Kalish Family Endowed Chair in Stem Cell Transplantation to Krishna V. Komanduri, M.D., last week, a generous gift designed to help one of the world’s leading stem cell transplant innovators fulfill his dream of curing the kind of dreadful cancers that claimed successful businessman Ronald Kalish in the prime of his life.
“Ron and I came from humble means and … his brilliance and his success enabled this magnificent gift that my family and I are proud to give to Krishna,” philanthropist Nedra Kalish said at the May 7 chair dedication at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. “My son [Geoff], having the same brilliance and success that his father did, enables this endowment and this chair.”
With humility and gratitude, Komanduri, a professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology and director of Sylvester’s Adult Stem Cell Transplant Program, thanked Nedra Kalish for having the “kindness, conviction and generosity” to make such a difference in the lives of South Floridians stricken with cancer.
During a slide presentation chronicling the history of bone marrow and stem cell transplantation, Komanduri noted that generous contributions from past benefactors enabled dramatic improvements in transplant survival rates, perhaps to the point of curing the kind of deadly cancer, mantle cell lymphoma, that killed Ronald Kalish, a former Duke University star pitcher and retail industry executive, in 2003.
“Critically, Mrs. Kalish directed her gift to Sylvester to ensure that future patients in South Florida would not need to leave the region to seek cutting-edge therapy,” Komanduri said. “I am humbled by her generosity and all of us will be motivated by her story.”
Joseph Rosenblatt, M.D., interim director of Sylvester, noted that the Kalish Family gift was pivotal in luring Komanduri away from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in 2008, and is already having a ‘‘transformational” impact on Sylvester’s goal of becoming a national leader in transplantation.
“Under Dr. Komanduri’s leadership, we already have doubled the number of transplants being performed here,” Rosenblatt said. “We are on target to do well over 100 [in 2010] and have increased the complexity and difficulty of transplants we are willing to tackle.”
Following the ceremony, the Kalish Family helped dedicate the Adult Stem Cell Transplant Program’s new Ambulatory Treatment Center at Sylvester, an inviting and cutting-edge wing where stem cell recipients who are highly vulnerable to infection come for outpatient follow-up care.
“They have to be followed carefully and compulsively in as safe a way as possible and that’s what’s going to take place in this special space,” W. Jarrard Goodwin, M.D., chief medical officer of Sylvester, said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “We have treatment rooms that are specially treated for ventilation and special personnel and systems to follow the patients closely and make sure they receive every advantage to fight this tough fight.”
And now, thanks to the Kalish Family’s endowed chair, South Florida patients have one of the world’s foremost transplant experts in their corner, too. As Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., told the Kalish family, “To be the best you have to have the best…With this amazing chair, you are funding [Dr. Komanduri’s] dream – his dream to save the lives of patients with the most dreadful cases of cancer.”