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The Hillman Legacy: Advancing Healthcare and Medical Research

The Hillman Legacy: Advancing Healthcare and Medical Research
By Kevin Brown

"Their legacy will live on in the halls of the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and, when we get to the future without cancer, they will get the credit due," Stanley M. Marks, M.D., said recently in describing Henry and Elsie Hillman, whose philanthropy impacted healthcare and medical research not only in western Pennsylvania, but around the world. Dr. Marks is chairman of the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. The UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in Shadyside remains the flagship cancer research and treatment facility at UPMC.

Family patriarch and philanthropist Henry L. Hillman passed away on April 14 at the age of 98. His wife, Elsie Hillman, passed away in 2015.

According to the Hillman Family Foundations, the Hillmans donated $425.5 million to a variety of educational, cultural, community, and healthcare institutions and projects since the Hillman Foundation was established by Henry's father in 1951. Of that total, more than $71 million was given for healthcare and medical research projects around the region.

"They impacted cancer care and research in our area in many ways," said Dr. Marks. "Until the Hillman Cancer Center in Shadyside was built, we didn't actually have a physical structure. It was a 'virtual' cancer center located mostly at Montefiore and Presby," he said.

In 2002, the Hillmans gave $10 million to the construction of the cancer center and, in 2004, committed $20 million to establish the Hillman Fellows for Innovative Cancer Research Program. The Hillmans subsequently donated another $6 million to the research program.

"It established a state-of-the-art clinical facility for one-stop shopping – where patients could have everything done on-site. The other half of the building is research. Just the facility alone enabled us to change the face of cancer care, as well as cancer research, which hasn't just impacted cancer care in this region, but across the world," he said.

Dr. Marks noted that the research program funded by the Hillmans has reaped benefits many times over. "That $20 million for research was parlayed into nearly $100 million in additional research funding received from the federal government and other agencies that support cancer research."

On May 31, UPMC officials announced the renaming of the 50-plus cancer center locations within the global UPMC network as UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.

Today, the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is western Pennsylvania's only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of five in the state, and one of just 47 nationwide. 

What the Hillmans did to advance cancer care and research, they also did for pediatric organ transplantation. A gift of $10 million from the Henry L. Hillman and Hillman Foundations in 2005 established the Hillman Center for Pediatric Transplantation and the Hillman Endowment for Pediatric Transplantation at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

The first pediatric kidney transplant was performed at Children's Hospital in 1964. In 1981, Children's opened the first pediatric transplant center in the country under the guidance of Thomas E. Starzl, M.D., Ph.D.
"The Hillman gift was really a transforming gift in several ways for our program and, ultimately, for transplantation programs across the country," said George V. Mazariegos, M.D., chief of Pediatric Transplantation at Children's.

"It allowed us to bring together the transplant programs that were operating at Children's in the various disciplines such as the abdominal, thoracic and renal transplant programs, and identify common problems or opportunities that were facing our patients and address them together through clinical infrastructure and research," said Dr. Mazariegos.

"The gift also allowed us, in an era of uncertain national research funding, to help our innovative investigators with preliminary funding that would lead to additional funding that was sustainable," Dr. Mazariegos said.

In March 2017, the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR) ranked Children's the number one program in the country for pediatric liver transplant outcomes. Children's also was the only hospital nationally to receive a "better than expected" outcomes rating for pediatric liver transplants.

The Hillmans' legacy of advancing health care doesn't stop with the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and the Hillman Center for Pediatric Transplantation at Children's. Grants from the various Hillman foundations have supported a multitude of other healthcare and medical research projects in the region.

The Magee-Womens Research Institute was the recipient of a Hillman grant to establish the Elsie Hilliard Hillman Chair of Women's Health Research held by Yoel Sadovsky, M.D.

The Three Rivers Mothers' Milk Bank was started in 2013 with a lead gift from the Henry L. Hillman Foundation. The milk bank provides donor human milk to medically fragile and premature babies in the region's Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs).

The Mary Hillman Jennings Foundation also supported the Child Advocacy Center (CAC) at Children's, which provides comprehensive evaluations for children and adolescents who may be victims of physical or sexual abuse, or neglect, among other services related to child maltreatment.

A Henry L. Hillman Foundation grant is helping the Healthy Schools Initiative, a partnership of Children's and Pittsburgh Public Schools, promote nutritious eating and physical activity using the Healthy Schools Program, the country's largest school-based childhood obesity prevention initiative.

The Henry L. Hillman Foundation provided a grant to the University of Pittsburgh Department of Emergency Medicine for the local adoption of a smartphone app called PulsePoint. Volunteer CPR responders are alerted via the app to respond to nearby out-of-hospital cardiac arrest events until professional responders arrive. The goal is to reduce the number of deaths from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.

Funds from a Henry L. Hillman Foundation grant supported the development of the MyHealthyPregnancy smartphone app by researchers and scientists at Magee-Womens Research Institute, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. The app is designed to reduce the incidence of pre-term birth among high risk mothers through a daily survey and intervention focusing on specific risk factors.

The list of Hillman grants supporting healthcare and medical research in western Pennsylvania adds up to millions of dollars. The impact of these grants is far-reaching and, at least in the case of advances made through the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and the Hillman Center for Pediatric Transplantation, is being realized around the world.

In spite of the global impact of their philanthropy, Henry and Elsie Hillman remained Pittsburghers to the core and were personally committed to the projects they supported.

"Both had an indefatigable commitment to Pittsburgh. They loved this community and felt strongly that their giving could be more effective if it was directed locally where they could know the institutions and the individuals involved and see the impact of that giving," said David K. Roger, president of the Hillman Family Foundations.

"Both were very hands on. It wasn't unlike Elsie to just pop into the cancer center to make sure everything looked the way she hoped it would. Henry loved to unpack projects to find ways to use the money to be as impactful as possible," Mr. Roger said.

The legacy of the Hillmans will live on through the Hillman Family Foundations as it was recently announced that a total of $800 million from Henry Hillman's estate will be divided among the 18 foundations comprising the Hillman Family Foundations.

Thanks to the Hillmans and their generosity, countless lives have been affected through the many projects they supported to advance healthcare and medical research.

RELEASE: UPMC Cancer Center to Honor Hillmans with Name Change

PITTSBURGH, May 31, 2017 – The Hillman Cancer Center, the flagship clinical and research facility of the UPMC CancerCenter network, is renowned for providing world-class cancer care. Today, officials from UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute announced that all 50-plus cancer center locations within the global network will be renamed UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. 

"This new name, which honors the integrity, high standards and vital contributions of Henry and Elsie Hillman, underscores our commitment to systemwide quality and innovation at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center...

Read entire release

For more information about the philanthropic legacy of the Hillmans in western Pennsylvania, visit www.hillmanfamilyfoundations.org.

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