More than $9 million donated to Bronson Health Foundation will improve cancer care in the region

A new cancer center in Kalamazoo, enhanced cancer services in Battle Creek, and a psychologist to support pediatric cancer patients are among the projects supported by a new public fundraising campaign just launched by the Bronson Health Foundation.

Over the past two years, regional donors to Bronson Health Foundation have contributed more than $9 million toward cancer care services for adult and pediatric patients across the Bronson Healthcare system. 

The next fundraising phase, a community-wide public campaign, will support even more programs and services for patients undergoing cancer care at Bronson.

“When Bronson began its fundraising initiative, we had established a base $8 million goal to fund core priorities across our three sites of care,” says Terry Morrow, Vice President of Development, Bronson Healthcare.

“We have learned more from donors and doctors about the investments needed to build an equitable future for cancer care. While we have exceeded our base goal, additional support is critical to elevate the spaces and services that cancer patients in our region need. Investments in the campaign will allow us to establish supportive and healing spaces, offer transportation and medication support for our patients in need, and realize the future of care that our region deserves,” Morrow says. “These investments will help build upon Bronson's $60 million vision for cancer care.”

A priority of the fundraising campaign will be the addition of a new child and family psychologist to be available for cancer patients and their caregivers at Bronson Children’s Hospital.Bronson Health Foundation was established in 1983 as the philanthropic arm of the Bronson Healthcare System. Its initiatives fund such things as equipment, education, and programs for patients and their families, staff, and communities. Meeting the needs of cancer patients became a Foundation effort in 2019 when Bronson Health Foundation began engaging regional donors to join that support.

Some of the priorities funded through early campaign support are now operational, Morrow says. However, many future plans require community support. 

The community phase of the fundraising campaign “will help fill a critical need in our region,” says Von Washington Jr., chairman of Bronson Health Foundation board of directors. “Cancer touches many lives, and we invite families of southwest Michigan to be a part of the Foundation’s Cancer Care Campaign to bring its full vision to life.”

Hope and Healing Start Here: What’s next?
Across Kalamazoo, Calhoun, and Van Buren counties, more than 2,000 new cancer cases are diagnosed annually. The Cancer Care Campaign supports: 

The new Bronson Cancer Center 
This new outpatient facility, in the Frank J. Sardone Pavilion at Bronson Methodist Hospital, Kalamazoo, will be a top priority. The center, which opened in February, provides medical oncology, hematology, and infusion services. The five-story, 85,000 sq. ft. pavilion center is named for the former president and CEO Sardone, who retired in December 2019, after 32 years of service. 

“A cancer patient touches nearly every part of our health system,” says Bill Manns, Bronson Healthcare’s current president and CEO, “and we want to be there for them every step of the way, from their primary care doctor, to medical oncology and radiation specialists, to chemotherapy and infusion services, lab and diagnostics, surgery, rehabilitation, and other therapies. 
Community support for the new center offers services to improve the quality of life of patients and their families — such as survivorship, palliative care, nutrition counseling, and healthy living activities, Morrow says.

Survivorship is the long-term care and engagement that a patient requires after treatment for their disease. Often patients require special check-ups, psychosocial support, and partnership with other cancer survivors to build resiliency.

Supportive services are a range of offerings that enhance a patient's care. At the new facility, there will be an activity studio for yoga or other physical activities, a treatment room for massage and pain management, and a conference space for counseling or healthy living presentations. All of these services directly relate to a patient's care and healing, Morrow says.

Read more about the new Kalamazoo center here
Reinvesting in the Bronson Cancer Center in Battle Creek
At this established site, the Cancer Care Campaign has already supported the purchase of leading-edge radiation technology, a Varian TrueBeam Linear Accelerator, and Varian HyperArc. 

This new equipment, unveiled in January 2020, reduces radiation treatment times, improves tumor targeting, and allows for the expansion of treatment technology in the future. 

Dr. Randy Mudge, radiation oncologist at Bronson Battle Creek and physician in chief for oncology services for the Bronson Healthcare system, says the new equipment "reflects our commitment to deliver a higher level of care at Bronson Battle Creek, and helps reassure those with a cancer diagnosis that they can receive comprehensive cancer treatment right in their own community.”

Philanthropic support also funded a new electronic record system to improve communication between system-wide providers and patients. Several other facility updates will be completed using donated funds.

Building a supportive future for children at the Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Clinic
Bronson Children’s Hospital across the street from the new Kalamazoo cancer center pavilion continues to be the premier destination for inpatient and outpatient care for children with cancer and blood disorders from throughout the region. A priority of the fundraising campaign will be the addition of a new child and family psychologist to be available for cancer patients and their caregivers at Bronson Children’s Hospital.

The psychologist will encourage learning, development, and resilience during and beyond a child’s cancer journey.

Interviews for a Child and Family Psychologist are underway, upgrades to the pediatric clinic will begin in 2021, and support for patients in need at all sites will be ongoing, Morrow says.

Knocking down barriers to care
Addressing barriers to access and treatment among vulnerable community members will ensure Bronson Healthcare’s regional cancer care program is serving all people equitably. The campaign will support a demographic analysis and community outreach to create equity-oriented solutions in Bronson’s cancer program. Further, funding to address critical patient needs like transportation, medication support, and nutritional supplements continues to be raised through the campaign.

“Bronson is taking a holistic look at identifying barriers to access of our cancer program,” Morrow says. “Through the campaign, we are continuing to build support for patients in need to provide transportation and medical support for those who cannot afford it. Beyond this, we are beginning dedicated work to identify the more intangible barriers to an inclusive cancer program, such as trust or reluctance to screen. This improved understanding will allow Bronson to build the right relationships and ensure we advance the health of all communities we serve.”

A caring community
“Philanthropic support and community engagement fuels our providers and directly connects to our patients,” Morrow explains. “As a locally owned and operated system, Bronson is committed to implementing a bold vision for cancer care and giving back to the community that continues to invest so generously in our future.” 

To date, more than 100 donors have made contributions totaling $9.2 million. The generosity of these regional leaders serves as a shared acknowledgment that local, high-quality cancer care is essential for the communities that Bronson serves, and cancer care cannot stop during extraordinary circumstances like the COVID-19 pandemic, Morrow says.

Kim Nuyen, president of Moore Electrical Service, Inc., his wife Valerie, and his company made a leading $1.25 million investment in Bronson’s vision for cancer care. “My family has confronted the realities of cancer treatment. Making this gift is meaningful as our community builds a better and more coordinated vision for cancer care,” Nuyen says. “Facilities and spaces really matter during a patient’s time of vulnerability, and Bronson is delivering the healing environments that our families, friends, and neighbors deserve.” 

Other donors to the Cancer Care Campaign include the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation, The Maxon Foundation at US Bank, Bronson Battle Creek Hospital Community Partners, Havirmill Foundation, Frank Sardone and Susan Fall, Suzanne Upjohn Delano Parish Foundation, Dorothy U. Dalton Foundation, Friends and Family of Mall City Mechanical, CSM Group, Inc., W.S. and Lois VanDalson Foundation, Miller Johnson Attorneys, and Josh and Pamela Weiner.

“We are humbled by the leadership and generosity that is motivating an extraordinary level of community support for cancer care at Bronson,” Foundation chairman Washington says.

Click here to learn more about the initiative, share your story, and donate to the Cancer Care Campaign. 

To learn more about cancer care services at Bronson, visit here.

For a video of the Cancer Care Campaign click here and for one on the Cancer Center click here.

Read more articles by Rosemary Parker.

Rosemary Parker has worked as a writer and editor for more than 40 years, most of that time in Southwest Michigan.