Largest Individual Gift in Henry Ford History Names New Detroit Cancer Building, Advances Cancer Research

December 5, 2016


DETROIT – Detroit businessman and philanthropist Mort Harris has given Henry Ford Health System the largest individual gift in its 100-year history to facilitate cancer clinical care and research in Detroit in honor of his late wife Brigitte Harris.

This new $20 million gift is part of a $40 million package from Harris that supports Henry Ford’s new Detroit cancer building project, along with three specific program areas: pancreatic cancer, brain cancer and precision medicine.

The combined gift of $40 million will name the new building the Brigitte Harris Cancer Pavilion, part of the Henry Ford Cancer Institute. The building will be a destination for ambulatory cancer treatment, precision medicine, clinical trials, and enhanced support services for cancer patients. The planned six-story, 187,000-square foot Detroit cancer facility will honor the life and legacy of Brigitte Harris.

"Brigitte and I had a real love affair from the moment I met her until her last day,” says Harris. "I was Brigitte’s caregiver for 21 months while she was sick. This was an intimate position to observe the suffering this awful disease caused her, and felt the pain that pancreatic cancer causes its victims and their families. I don't want any other families to have to go through that. I have to do this for her and for them."

Brigitte was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2014 and received care at Henry Ford Hospital. Even during treatment, Harris says, Brigitte never slowed down, caring for her family and tending to her prized rose garden until her final days.

"Mort and Brigitte Harris have been a very special and important couple to Henry Ford Health System with a 30 year history of leadership and generous support. It is truly an honor to name our new cancer building in Brigitte's memory. Her indomitable spirit and interest in others, even during her difficult illness, will inspire our Henry Ford Cancer Institute team members to significantly transform and advance the care of cancer patients and their families,” says Nancy Schlichting, CEO, Henry Ford Health System.

Additionally, a portion of the Harris gift will support Henry Ford's commitment to match donations to precision medicine, up to $25 million. This donor-match will make possible groundbreaking work to revolutionize cancer treatment through research, clinic trials and precision medicine.

“This gift will offer real hope for all cancer diagnoses, including pancreatic and other difficult to treat cancers. We’re embarking on a new frontier in cancer treatment. Once we unlock the secrets of the molecular genetic fingerprints for these cancers through precision medicine, we will blaze a pathway to a cure,” says Steven N. Kalkanis, M.D., Medical Director, Henry Ford Cancer Institute, and Chair, Department of Neurosurgery.

Henry Ford recently launched a cancer precision medicine program with Syapse, the leading precision medicine software company, to expand treatment options based on an individual’s DNA.

Responding to Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Initiative, Henry Ford committed to sharing cancer outcomes data with other health systems through the Syapse software platform, enabling more rapid learning from real-world experiences to improve patient care around the globe.

“Mort’s gift is invaluable to continuing Henry Ford’s 100-year tradition of clinical innovation. The Brigitte Harris Cancer Pavilion is key to our next century, impacting not only cancer patients, but serving as an emblematic monument of the rebirth and resurgence of Detroit,” says Wright Lassiter III, President and Incoming CEO, Henry Ford Health System.

The Brigitte Harris Cancer Pavilion is part of a 300-acre expansion and neighborhood revitalization and development initiative, located across from Henry Ford Hospital along W. Grand Blvd. and north of I-94. The new cancer facility, estimated to cost between $120 million and $150 million, will anchor Henry Ford Hospital’s South Campus expansion project.

The Brigitte Harris Cancer Pavilion will be home to both clinical and support services for all cancer patients, offering convenience and a true multidisciplinary care experience to patients. Cancer surgery will continue to be performed at Henry Ford Hospital.

“We’re creating a world-class facility that will provide care in a more seamless, coordinated and healing environment, as well as offer patients access to the most advanced technology and treatment for the duration of their disease,” says John Popovich Jr., M.D., President and CEO, Henry Ford Hospital.

Expanded services in the new building will include extended weekday and weekend hours for care, patient concierge services and nurse navigators, on-site exercise and nutrition planning, and retail cancer services, including aesthetics and personal care items.

The center also will incorporate clinical and translational research, as well as dedicated space where patients can speak with research nurses about clinical trial opportunities.

The building is being designed by Detroit-based SmithGroupJJR, one of the nation's largest healthcare architecture, engineering and planning firms. Turner Construction, which built Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, is set to manage construction and build the new facility.

A spring 2017 groundbreaking is planned for the Brigitte Harris Cancer Pavilion; it is expected to open in 2020. Learn more about the Brigitte Harris Cancer Pavilion at the New Henry Ford Cancer Center.

Krista Hopson Boyer


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