Pledge Will Provide Advocate for Brain Tumor Patients

Spurred on by first-hand experience, Stanley and Nancy Engle recently made a generous commitment to help ease the difficulties facing brain tumor patients.

The couple announced a $400,000 gift for a joint initiative of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine known as the UM Brain Tumor Initiative (UMBTI).

The donation was celebrated during a ceremony July 16 in the Lois Pope LIFE Center. The Engle’s goal is to fund a position for a dedicated concierge in the Department of Neurological Surgery who will enhance the many state-of-the-art therapies offered at Sylvester, part of UHealth – the University of Miami Health System, and guide brain tumor patients and their families through the complex process of brain tumor treatments.

“When we talked about making a gift, we knew we wanted to dedicate it to the patient and make this road a little easier,” said Nancy Engle. “We realized there was a terrific need for one individual who can answer all of a patient’s questions.”

The Engle’s pledge came about as a result of Stanley’s battle with brain cancer, which began in 2015, when he stood up to make a toast in a restaurant but suddenly couldn’t speak. Rushed to the hospital, doctors first said he had suffered a stroke. Two days later, a visit to a neurologist revealed a brain tumor.

The Engles were referred to the University of Miami Brain Tumor Initiative, where they met with the program director, Ricardo J. Komotar, M.D., Director of Surgical Neurooncology at Sylvester, who scheduled surgery at the University of Miami Hospital.

When they checked in, they found a room that wasn’t ready to provide the pre-treatment protocols required for Stanley’s procedure, and they were unsure where to turn for help.

Even though the surgery was completed successfully the following morning, the Engles were determined to make sure future patients had a smoother encounter than they did. They felt having a point of contact knowledgeable to the unique needs of brain tumor patients would be a tremendous help.

“Patients in this situation need hands-on help,” Nancy said. “They need someone they can call for answers. The doctors were wonderful and responsive, but there needs to be someone else who can help streamline the process.”

Physicians at the UMBTI are working toward developing new treatments for brain tumor patients. As a part of Sylvester, their goal is to discover, develop, and deliver the most effective and personalized treatment for each patient’s cancer, along with a superior patient experience.

“I think that the dedicated concierge is going to be a huge addition to our program,” said Komotar, who is also an associate professor and associate program director of neurosurgery residency at the Miller School’s Department of Neurological Surgery. “It is a critical component that will be a great help for brain tumor patients when they have questions or concerns.”

Suzy Selby, Nancy’s daughter, made a special trip from California to support her mother and Stanley as they were recognized for their gift. The ceremony was also attended by other members of the care team, Macarena de la Fuente, M.D., brain tumor surgeon at Sylvester and assistant professor of neurology, and Cathy Rosenberg, M.S.N., Associate Vice President of Neurological Surgery and Orthopaedic Services.

The Engles hope that the concierge program becomes a model for every department, so patients from all walks of life will have an advocate speaking for them.

“Your generosity in the light of your experience is fantastic,” said Allan D. Levi, M.D., Ph.D., professor and Chair of Neurological Surgery at the Miller School of Medicine and Chief of Neurosurgery at Jackson Memorial Hospital. “The doctors and nurses provide excellent care, and having someone who can ensure everything moves smoothly between departments will be a huge benefit to the patient experience.”

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