Steven and Patricia Gabbe: Living and Giving in Tandem

Steven and Patricia Temple Gabbe, both MDs, are the type of couple who lovingly hang on one another’s every word. They share an affection for their four children and two grandchildren, as well as a passion for promoting maternal and child health and healthy birth outcomes—Patricia as clinical professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, and Steven as professor of obstetrics and gynecology after serving for seven years as senior vice president for health sciences and CEO of the Wexner Medical Center.

The Gabbes also share a strong affinity for cancer research, riding together on a tandem bicycle each year in support of Pelotonia, the annual grassroots bicycle tour that raises money for cancer research at Ohio State.

Both Patricia and Steven have seen more than their share of the pain cancer causes in their work as physicians, but also personally. A number of close friends and family members have experienced cancer, including Steven’s grandmother and mother and Patricia’s close friend and father. Every year after completing Pelotonia, says Steven, he and Patricia feel great, “but we also cry, because there is someone we have lost each year.”

Their personal giving decisions are made together as well, and when it came time to make a gift to the new James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, “There was never any question,” says Patricia.

Adds Steven, whose tenure as CEO included the planning and building of the new James, “As we went around to talk to other donors, it was so important to show that we had also demonstrated our commitment.”

Their half-million-dollar gift was honored with the naming of the Steven and Patricia Gabbe Conference Room, a fitting tribute to their contributions. “We’re both teachers, educators,” says Steven. “We wanted to support a space where knowledge would be exchanged and new knowledge would be shared.”

“It’s just a beautiful, open space,” says Patricia.

Even the artwork adorning the wall of the conference room—a series of 45 small paintings of Ohio birds by artist Paul Hamilton, lined up in three rows—evidences the Gabbes’ personal touch. They had spotted the pieces at Hammond Harkins Galleries as art was being acquired for the new James. Steven recalls phoning David Schuller, MD, then-vice president of medical center expansion and outreach, and saying, “We need these birds.” The Gabbes had no idea that the paintings would end up in the conference room bearing their name.

It is these unique touches that make the new James so special. Says Patricia, “I think people who have cancer should walk into the building and feel uplifted and honored, that the people here really care about them.”

“When we were planning the new James and meeting with the architects, I said the building had to be a beacon of hope,” says Steven. “I don’t know that they appreciated that patients, families, nurses, physicians and staff would be coming here 24/7. I wanted people who come even in the middle of the night to see a place where there is hope for them and their families.”

Although the Gabbes have studied and worked at other academic medical centers with exceptional cancer programs, they firmly believe the new James is where the cures for cancer will be discovered. “The big difference here is the sense of family and community,” says Steven. “I didn’t get that at the other cancer centers where I’ve worked. What makes this so special is how people feel a part of The James. Everyone is really focused on the mission of curing cancer and providing the best care they can.”

Care for others is evident in how the Gabbes live and give. They keep very full schedules with their work at Ohio State, the seventh edition of the obstetrics textbook Steven is editing, Patricia’s Moms2B program that helps mothers in high-risk neighborhoods deliver full-term healthy babies, Steven’s work with Partners Achieving Community Transformation to introduce a healthcare workforce curriculum into the near Eastside public schools, their membership on the Greater Columbus Infant Mortality Taskforce, co-chairing fundraising for the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center Ohio Collaborative, and other important causes.

Caring for one another is an important theme, too. When riding a tandem bike, “The captain rides in front and the stoker in the back,” explains Steven, who rides in the captain’s seat. “They say that the number one job of the captain is to keep the stoker happy. And, I try to apply that to our day-to-day lives.”

Adds Patricia, “And so far we’ve stayed safe thanks to his captaining.”

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