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Mayo Clinic Receives Unique Philanthropic Gift for Cancer Research


5/3/2010 4:04:29 PM

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Mayo Clinic is forming a new permanent professorship to augment cancer research that will focus on finding new treatments and preventive measures to reduce the incidence of cancer. This professorship is made possible by a $2 million gift from The Vasek and Anna Maria Polak Charitable Foundation, and the recipient, Keith Stewart, M.B., Ch.B., has been recognized by the Mayo Clinic Board of Trustees.

Vasek Polak was a native of Prague, Czech Republic. He fled Prague in 1948 and later came to the West Coast, where he was the owner of the first Porsche-only dealership in the United States, located in Manhattan Beach, Calif. In 1983, he married Anna Maria Littlejohn; the two met when he repaired her car. She died of cancer in 1993. In 1997, Mr. Polak passed away at the age of 82. The Vasek and Anna Maria Polak Charitable Foundation, located in Torrance, Calif., was established with assets from Mr. Vasek Polak.

The Vasek and Anna Maria Polak Charitable Foundation chose to make this commitment to Mayo even though the clinic is not within the geographic regions that it was primarily established to support. Jeff Bucher, co-trustee of the foundation, felt it was the right decision to make after experiencing Mayo Clinic's style of patient care.

"We generally fund only medical institutions within the state of California," said Mr. Bucher before his death in June 2009. "But in this case, we recognized the global impact that Mayo Clinic has. In addition, many patients from California seek care at Mayo Clinic's locations in Phoenix and Scottsdale, where the named professor practices."

Jeffrey Bucher had been a lawyer in the Washington, D.C., area and served as co-trustee for the foundation. Mr. Bucher also was a Mayo Clinic patient who was impressed by Mayo Clinic's facilities and the care he received — so much so that he and his co-trustee, Soterios "Sam" Menzelos, made this thoughtful commitment outside of the foundation's usual geographic area of support.

Dr. Stewart, the recipient of the Vasek and Anna Maria Polak Professorship in Cancer Research, is a consultant in the Division of Hematology and Oncology, Department of Internal Medicine, at Mayo Clinic in Arizona. Dr. Stewart holds the academic rank of professor of medicine. He earned his medical degree at Aberdeen University Medical School, United Kingdom; and the Master of Business Administration degree at the University of Western Ontario. He completed an internship at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Glasgow, United Kingdom; a residency in internal medicine at Queens University, Kingston, Ontario; a fellowship in hematology at the University of Toronto; and a fellowship in research at New England Medical Center, Boston. Dr. Stewart's research focuses on the biology and treatment of multiple myeloma. His achievements include establishing a large clinical practice with interest in autologous stem cell transplant and novel therapies for myeloma, obtaining national funding and industry support for clinical trials in these arenas, and actively leading a nationally funded laboratory research program in genomics and target identification in myeloma.

"We rely on philanthropic support to help sustain our commitment to finding cures for cancer. Even in the tough economic times that the nation is facing, the pursuit of answers must continue," says Rafael Fonseca, M.D., deputy director of Mayo Clinic Cancer Center at Mayo Clinic in Arizona. "This gift is a demonstration of the trust that is placed in us to do work that truly matters."

As a result of this gift, The Vasek and Anna Maria Polak Charitable Foundation will be given principal benefactor status and recognized in Mayo Clinic's Hall of Benefactors.

Named professorships represent the highest academic distinction for a Mayo Clinic faculty member. Faculty are appointed to a named professorship through nomination and endorsement of their peers and then confirmed by Mayo Clinic senior leadership. Appointed individuals are recognized for distinguished achievement in their specialty areas and service to the institution. These professorships are named in honor of the benefactors. The gift funds, which may be unrestricted or focused on a specific medical area, are held in endowment. All income from the endowed professorships supports Mayo Clinic programs in medical education and research.

About Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic is the first and largest integrated, not-for-profit group practice in the world. Doctors from every medical specialty work together to care for patients, joined by common systems and a philosophy of "the needs of the patient come first." More than 3,700 physicians, scientists and researchers, and 50,100 allied health staff work at Mayo Clinic, which has campuses in Rochester, Minn; Jacksonville, Fla; and Scottsdale/Phoenix, Ariz.; and community-based providers in more than 70 locations in southern Minnesota., western Wisconsin and northeast Iowa. These locations treat more than half a million people each year. To obtain the latest news releases from Mayo Clinic, go to www.mayoclinic.org/news. For information about research and education, visit www.mayo.edu. MayoClinic.com (www.mayoclinic.com) is available as a resource for your health stories.

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