Leading by Example: OSUCCC – James Executives Give Back

In fiscal year 2013, more than 122,700 donors gave more than $70.9 million to Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James). Among those donors are OSUCCC – James researchers, clinicians, specialists, business professionals and many members of the leadership team, including: Michael A. Caligiuri, MD, director of the OSUCCC and CEO of The James; Richard Goldberg, MD, physician-in-chief; Peter Shields, MD, deputy director of the OSUCCC; and Jeff Walker, MBA, senior executive director.

In addition to the time these four leaders spend performing their daily operational, clinical and research duties, they and their families have made sizable gifts to support the efforts, facilities, programs and talent at the OSUCCC – James. They have given for different reasons, and their gifts support different areas, but they share a belief that cures for cancer will be found at Ohio State.

These leaders recently explained what their gifts mean to them and how they hope those gifts will further the OSUCCC – James vision of creating a cancer-free world. 

Dr. Michael and Ani Caligiuri

Supporting life-saving work at the OSUCCC – James is not a new idea for Dr. Caligiuri. He has generously supported many projects during his tenure as director and CEO, including research grants and riders in Pelotonia, the annual grassroots bicycle tour that raises millions of dollars for cancer research at Ohio State. But his most recent gift marks the first time he and his family have supported a facility that is under construction, namely the new James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute that is targeted to open in December 2014. Dr. Caligiuri admits that this gift represents a shift in his thinking, but he notes that the community “needs a bigger facility to take care of cancer patients, and this is a structure that I believe will help bring an end to cancer. I hope this gift will inspire people to give, and that this new building will inspire patients to get well.”

Married for 28½ years, Ani Caligiuri knows well the passion that her husband has for his work and for the impact that the OSUCCC – James is having on cancer research and treatment. “For me, making this gift is about honoring my husband and the work he’s put in over so many years. He’s been an integral part of the team that’s made so many successes in the cancer fight. I know what it means to him to do anything he can to support the work done at The James.

Dr. Richard and Lynda Goldberg

When the Goldbergs moved from North Carolina to Ohio and took positions at the OSUCCC – James, they immediately recognized that Ohio State is part of a special community. Lynda says she is in awe of those who are so passionate about work being done at the OSUCCC – James. “The Pelotonia community is a great example. It’s not just OSU; it’s not just The James. You have people from all around coming together all year long with the same goal.”

Dr. Goldberg adds, “The community is united around The Ohio State University – whether it’s for The James, the education or the football. People love Ohio State.”

For their gift, the Goldbergs have created the Goldberg Family Prize to annually recognize five individuals – a physician, two professional caregivers (e.g., nurses, therapists, technicians) and two individuals without advanced degrees – who provide exceptional care to James patients. “We picked a gift that supports the extraordinary attributes of caregiving. Caregivers are often unsung heroes, and there are so many who devote their lives to the cancer fight, one patient at a time,” Dr. Goldberg says. “We talk about our high-tech approaches, our robots and our special research, which is all extremely important, but making people feel cared for is just as important. That’s what we are trying to incent and reward with this.”

Dr. Peter Shields and Leslie Kirsch

Before coming to Ohio State, Peter Shields, MD, and his wife Leslie knew of the rapid growth and great impact that researchers at the OSUCCC-James were having, and they wanted to be a part of it. Leslie is no stranger to development work and fundraising, and when she visited the cancer center during the recruitment process, she saw firsthand how donors’ gifts were being put to work, which made it an easy decision to make their gift. In addition to their personal giving, Dr. Shields developed a special program to determine how donor funds are distributed to researchers. “It is a peer-reviewed panel of scientists from inside and outside of OSU who rank proposals and select the ones worthy of funding, namely the ones that will return impactful research results.” And he raises the bar by asking reviewers, “Would they want their money to be spent on this research?” He says that reviewers take this to heart as many also contribute to The James, so they have a personal stake in the success.

The Shieldes enjoy interacting with the donor community at events such as Pelotonia, Up on the Roof, the Block Memorial Tournament and others. Dr. Shields marvels that, when he mentions to perfect strangers that he works at The James, “Their eyes light up, and they proceed to share a personal story of what The James did for them, or how they support The James.” Dr. Shields and Leslie say the Columbus community support is special, “a big morale booster.” 

Jeff and Colleen Walker

Jeff and Colleen Walker elected to make a gift to the Cancer Strategic Support Fund at The James. These funds are disbursed via a competitive grant process that identifies the most promising work being done at the OSUCCC – James. Jeff says this fund designation was an easy choice for them. “While the awarded project may be focused on a specific cancer, we know that research on any cancer can lead to breakthroughs for all cancers. We just want to make sure that our dollars go to the best opportunity for making an impact.”

The Walkers are no strangers to the donor community at The James after attending a number of the fundraising events and meeting with many philanthropic supporters throughout the years. “The one thing that has blown me away here at The James is that the community support is unparalleled and unwavering. The willingness of people to give, not just their money, but their time… It’s an honor to be considered part of that community,” shares Jeff.

“I’m giving to something that I’m very passionate about and has impacted my life and really changed me. I’m not giving to the organization. I’m giving to the mission.”

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