Foresight and Vision: The State of Philanthropy at Cleveland Clinic

Foresight and Vision: The State of Philanthropy at Cleveland Clinic

With a nod to the foresight of Cleveland Clinic’s founding fathers, CEO, President and Morton L. Mandel CEO Chair Tom Mihaljevic, MD, presented his vision for the future at the State of Philanthropy 2018, held on July 18 at the InterContinental Hotel at Cleveland Clinic.

“They left us a model of healthcare that promotes innovation, teamwork and collaboration – an agile organization for an era of rapid change,” Dr. Mihaljevic said about the four physicians who established Cleveland Clinic in 1921. “Today … we are defined by our ability to provide exceptional care in an exceptional way.”

He noted the epidemics of chronic diseases such as cancer, stroke and diabetes, along with movement disorders, memory loss and dementia. “Our communities cry out for personalized and preventive care,” he said.

Over the next five years, Dr. Mihaljevic anticipates the expansion of research into genomics and molecular medicine, and the pursuit of immunotherapy and other promising cancer treatments. He predicts that research into heart disease, hypertension and inflammatory disease will accelerate, along with new ways to treat pain. He foresees a more intense focus on brain disease, including stroke, migraines and movement disorders.

“It is within our power to be the world’s foremost provider of specialty care and the national leader in population health,” he said. “We can do both. But it will take a lot to get there.”

The founders of Cleveland Clinic did not shrink from the challenges of their bold vision, and neither will we. “It is our responsibility to take Cleveland Clinic to the next generation of greatness. You are our partners in this effort,” he said. “Cleveland Clinic is here because it has the energy and insight to meet and overcome these challenges. But we can’t do it alone. We need you – your caring, and your generosity.”

Gibaras Honored with Crile Award

More than 350 people attended the State of Philanthropy, which included remarks from Larry Pollock and Stewart Kohl, Co-Chairs of The Power of Every One Centennial Campaign, and Lara Kalafatis, Chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Philanthropy Institute.

During the event, Dr. Mihaljevic presented the George W. Crile Sr. Award to Sam and Salma Gibara. The Crile Award recognizes the longstanding service, extraordinary commitment and outstanding contribution of time, talent and resources of individuals to the mission and people of Cleveland Clinic.

Mr. and Mrs. Gibara were among the earliest advocates for Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner College of Medicine, providing scholarships and serving as mentors to students. They also have supported basic and clinical research initiatives, including training programs in endocrinology, gynecology and oncology.

“Giving back is the best reward anyone can have,” said Mr. Gibara, former Chairman and CEO of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. “There is no better way to say ‘thank you’ for the many blessings we receive than to be able to share them to the best of our ability.”

Generous Gift to the Health Education Campus

The meeting concluded with a sneak-peek tour of the Health Education Campus, scheduled to open in summer 2019.

Toby Cosgrove, MD, executive advisor and former CEO and President of Cleveland Clinic, welcomed guests with the surprise announcement of a very generous gift from Sheila and Eric Samson. In recognition of the significant donation, the campus’ centerpiece 485,000-square-foot building will be named the Sheila and Eric Samson Pavilion.

Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University have partnered to establish the state-of-the-future campus, where medical, dental, nursing and physician assistant students will learn and work together.

“When it opens next year, the Health Education Campus will transform medical education for the next generation of caregivers,” Dr. Mihaljevic said. “We are exceedingly grateful to Eric and Sheila Samson for their vision and support of this project, which will provide our students with the most technologically advanced learning environment as we prepare them to become leading providers in exceptional patient care.”

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Great Care, Friendship Lead to Gift

Great Care, Friendship Lead to Gift

Sheila and Eric Samson, international humanitarians from South Africa, were willing to travel far for the best cardiac care. They found it at Cleveland Clinic.

And in Toby Cosgrove, MD, a world-renowned heart surgeon, they also found a friend.

Dr. Cosgrove performed Mr. Samson’s successful triple bypass surgery in March 2000. Soon after, the Samsons suggested that Dr. Cosgrove visit South Africa on his next family vacation. He liked the idea, and that once-in-a-lifetime trip, as Dr. Cosgrove describes it, marked the beginning of a warm and enduring friendship.

Among the highlights was an excursion to Robben Island, where anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela was held for 17 of his 27 years of incarceration.

“The tour wound up in his cell,” Dr. Cosgrove says, clearly in awe of the political prisoner who became the first black president of South Africa, uniting his country in the process.

Later that day, at the Samsons’ Capetown apartment, the phone rang. Mr. Samson handed the receiver to Dr. Cosgrove. “It’s for you,” he said.

Dr. Cosgrove assumed it was someone calling from Cleveland Clinic. Instead, it was Mr. Mandela, the Nobel Prize-winning icon himself, who said, “Thank you for taking care of my good friend, Eric Samson.”

Years later, Dr. Cosgrove and Mr. Samson both tell that story with great pleasure. “Toby couldn’t believe he was talking to Nelson Mandela,” Mr. Samson says. 

The fact that he arranged the surprise call says a lot about the special relationship between the Samsons and Dr. Cosgrove.

They also appreciate their great care at Cleveland Clinic. “My heart is still ticking very well, thank you,” says Mr. Samson, an international business leader.

The admiration and affection are mutual.

Generosity and Humility

“Eric and his wife, Sheila, are likely the most humble and generous individuals I have ever met. They’re always gracious and thoughtful,” Dr. Cosgrove says.

They believe in sharing their good fortune, he adds. “Their generous support for children, education and social progress has enhanced lives and institutions around the world.”

Cleveland Clinic has benefited from their generosity. A gift in 2010 launched the Samson Global Leadership Academy, which transformed healthcare executive training and has allowed Cleveland Clinic to share its expertise in hospital management with clinicians and administrators from around the world.

The Samsons also supported the Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute and the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas.

“Over the years, they have demonstrated a deep understanding of the challenges of 21st century healthcare,” Dr. Cosgrove says.

Their most recent gift will go a long way in addressing those challenges. It supports the Health Education Campus, an innovative “health university” where medical, dental, nursing and physician assistant students will learn and work together in a technologically advanced environment.

“When Toby told us about this project, he said it was close to his heart,” Mr. Samson says. “It soon became close to our hearts.”

Fittingly, the Samsons’ gift was announced on July 18, which would have been the 100th birthday of Nelson Mandela. He famously said that education is the most powerful weapon that can be used to change the world.

Dr. Cosgrove referenced that statement when he gave the Samson family a tour of the Health Education Campus’ centerpiece building, the Sheila and Eric Samson Pavilion.

And when he introduced his good friends during the gift announcement, he quoted another famous personage, Hippocrates, who said, “Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity.”

Through their philanthropy and compassion, the Samsons express their love of medicine and humanity. “They are committed,” Dr. Cosgrove says, “to doing the most good for the patient of today, and the patient of tomorrow.”

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