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Innovation Happens Here

Donna Saurage, Foundation Board of Directors Chairperson

As a longtime Mary Bird Perkins volunteer and supporter, I am fortunate to witness great acts of compassion and generosity. There are many individuals in our community who so graciously give their time and resources to make a difference in the lives of those touched by cancer.

One of these heroic people with a passion for serving others is Art Favre; a steadfast Cancer Center donor and dedicated Board of Directors vice chairman. Through a $1 million gift to the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center Foundation, Art is helping to cultivate pioneering treatments, technologies and services. A component of his donation subsidizes the annual Favre Family Award for Innovation, providing funds to develop ground-breaking ideas to improve survivorship and lessen the burden of cancer for years to come. Because here, we have some of the best cancer minds in the country making significant breakthroughs in the fight against the disease.

Favre Family Award for Innovation

The Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center Foundation provides up to $15,000 in funding to the annual Favre Family Award for Innovation winner, which results from an internal grant competition among team members. Staff from throughout the organization submit applications and compete for the dollars to make their ideas come to fruition, spurring unbelievable creativity and collaboration.

2018 Favre Family Award for Innovation Winners

2018 Favre Family Award for Innovation Winners

Connel Chu, a medical physicist, was the first winner in 2017 for his project “BPAP for Radiation Therapy.” His idea was to transform a bi-level positive airway pressure (BPAP) machine, typically used to treat sleep apnea, to help lung cancer patients breathe in a more controlled way during radiation treatment. This reimagined technology will aid radiation oncologists in more precisely targeting tumors during treatments while avoiding healthy lung tissue and reducing side effects.

This year, Vadel Shivers, MS, RD, a dietician, in collaboration with the oncology support services department, won for a project that will enhance oral nutrition and quality of life for head and neck cancer patients undergoing treatment, which are major challenges for those with this disease.

Foundation Funds Innovation

A gift to the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center Foundation is an investment in the future of cancer care. And with the Favre Family Award for Innovation, the Foundation had a unique opportunity to award additional funds to other inventive that were sparked as part of this new internal competitive grant program.

  • From the 2017 submissions, the information technology and marketing and communications departments are launching a new platform allowing for instant text notifications to all team members. The system will enhance emergency and key messaging; ensuring the staff receives the timeliest information, which translates to enhanced internal communication and an even better patient experience.
  • From the 2018 submissions, the physics department will develop a new, electron beam tuning instrument to enhance radiotherapy treatments for patients, which can help significantly enhance outcomes and experiences.

It’s because of community support and individuals like Art that the Foundation can fund innovative projects like these, helping to transform cancer care. I am proud to see the Cancer Center team members’ ingenuity and passion to always want to do more for patients. It’s this combination of expertise and compassion that brings more people each year from throughout the Gulf South to Mary Bird Perkins for a different kind cancer care.

We look forward to next year and can’t wait to see what new ideas flourish in the future.

Donna Saurage

Donna Saurage has been a Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center key supporter for more than 25 years. She served has served numerous terms on the Cancer Center’s board of directors and was elected as the first female chairperson during her 2011-2013 term. Donna was also named chair emeritus in 2015. In addition, Donna has served on and chaired several committees, including the strategic planning, executive, finance, development, nominating and marketing.