Ronda Huston: Honoring a Leader With a Gift to Help Children

When Ronda Huston answered an ad for a medical office assistant position in the Columbus Dispatch 33 years ago, she was simply looking for a job to help put herself through nursing school.

Looking back, Huston now realizes that when she took the position with David Schuller, MD, she was actually embarking on a fulfilling career that would span several decades and place her at the epicenter of the fight against cancer at Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center –James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).

Huston was at Dr. Schuller’s side during his clinical work as a professor and surgeon with Ohio State’s Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery until 2008 when he retired from clinical practice to fulfill his vision for building a 21st century, world-class cancer hospital as vice president of medical center expansion and outreach. She then remained his loyal assistant and continues in that role today.

When Dr. Schuller’s vision comes to fruition as the new James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute opens in December 2014, a special feature will help pediatric patients from Nationwide Children’s Hospital who visit The James for their radiation treatments—all because of a gift Huston made to honor Dr. Schuller and his wife Carole.

Dr. Schuller, a loving grandfather with a soft heart for children, desired to create an environment for children receiving radiation therapy that would decrease their anxiety. The OSUCCC – James partnered with Nationwide Children’s Hospital to develop a Pediatric Radiation Oncology Center that would accomplish that goal as a result of a leadership gift from Justice-Tween Brands. This area in the new James will mimic the interior design at Nationwide Children’s, decorated with trees and animals intended to divert the children’s attention away from their health problems. The James is also working to develop a digital technology feature that will enable the children to become friends with digitally-created animal characters and actually interact with them during their treatments. Ronda’s generous gift has further enhanced this digital technology that will enable the child and his/her animal friend to be together throughout their treatment and transform an anxiety-provoking experience into one which is comforting and entertaining.

When Huston, also a doting grandmother, saw Dr. Schuller’s disappointment that this technology had not yet been funded, she thought it through and decided to make the gift herself.

It is her privilege, she says, to have spent her career at The James with Dr. Schuller. “Every day I have seen Dr. Schuller give beyond and above 100 percent. And the new hospital is definitely a team effort, but it’s been driven by his passion and dedication. I’m just in awe of the sacrifices he and his wife have made for this university and hospital.”

And, having to watch her own granddaughter endure a major health challenge every day and one that kept her in the neonatal intensive care unit and many trips to Nationwide Children’s, Huston is pleased that her gift will help children with cancer to receive comfort during their treatments. “It’s hard for the kids,” she says, tearing up a bit. “Anything we can do to help them feel better while they’re here is a good thing.”

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