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Yale alumnus funds new cancer hospital

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2008 - Spring


Former chair of Playtex provides transformational gift to support comprehensive care facility.

Since his graduation from Yale College in 1954, Joel E. Smilow has made donations to his alma mater that have endowed a head football coach position; the renovation and expansion of the Lapham Field House, now called the Smilow Field Center; and five other coaching positions. He also played a key role in the implementation of his class’ $120 million gift to Yale, the largest class gift in the university’s history. For his fundraising efforts, including stewardship of the university’s “… and for Yale” capital campaign in the 1990s, he received the university’s highest honor, the Yale Medal, in 1993.

On October 31, before some 200 guests gathered in the East Pavilion of Yale-New Haven Hospital (YNHH), Smilow, the former CEO, chair and president of Playtex, was thanked for his transformational gift supporting a new $467 million cancer hospital, now under construction. When it opens in 2009, the comprehensive patient care facility will be known as the Smilow Cancer Hospital.

“We are building one of the finest patient-focused cancer care facilities in the country,” said Marna P. Borgstrom, M.P.H. ’79, president and CEO of YNHH. “We are very grateful for Joel and Joan Smilow’s overwhelmingly generous gift to the cancer hospital, and for sharing our vision of creating a place of hope and compassion for cancer patients.”

The new hospital will integrate all oncology patient services at YNHH and the School of Medicine in one building specifically designed to deliver multidisciplinary cancer care, and will feature specialized facilities for faculty physicians and community-based providers to care for patients. The 14-story facility will add nearly 500,000 square feet of new space and 112 inpatient beds, along with expanded outpatient treatment facilities, operating rooms and infusion suites; a specialized women’s cancer center focused on breast cancer and gynecologic oncology; and a dedicated floor each for diagnostic and therapeutic radiology.

President Richard C. Levin also expressed gratitude for the Smilows’ donation. “This generous gift will have a lasting impact on the lives of countless patients who will benefit from the state-of-the-art clinical care,” he said. “We are deeply thankful for Joel and Joan’s dedicated support.”

According to Robert J. Alpern, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine and Ensign Professor of Medicine, the new cancer hospital will transform cancer care at Yale for both doctors and patients. “Medical school faculty members will be able to offer the latest cutting-edge therapies, integrating improved care—which will be much more comfortable for our patients—with clinical research,” Alpern said. “Joel and Joan Smilow are assuring the future of a very important aspect of patient care at Yale.”

“Great facilities,” Smilow said, “help you attract and motivate outstanding people and make it easier for them to interrelate with one another. That’s where the longer-term payoff comes. The immediate benefits—providing a better place for healing and helping tens of thousands of victims of cancer—are obvious. We can only dream about the day when the building isn’t needed because we’ve found a cure for cancer.”

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