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OU Receives $1 Million Grant From Sarkeys Foundation in Support of Stephenson Cancer Center

Representatives from the Sarkeys Foundation and the OU Board of Regents

University of Oklahoma President David L. Boren announced today that a $1 million grant from the Sarkeys Foundation has been presented to OU for two important programs at the Peggy and Charles Stephenson Cancer Center. 

Half of the gift will support efforts to recruit established scientists, who will bring strong National Cancer Institute-funded research programs to the Stephenson Cancer Center. The other half will create an endowment that will provide enduring resources for the Cancer Center’s Patient and Family Services Program, which offers patients and families a range of supportive care services. 

“The University family is very grateful to the Sarkeys Foundation for this generous gift, which will improve the healthcare of countless Oklahomans for year to come,” Boren said. 

Boren, who made the announcement at the March meeting of the OU Board of Regents, said he will recommend to OU Regents that a floor in the seven-story Stephenson Cancer Center be named for the Sarkeys Foundation in recognition of the grant.

“The Sarkeys Foundation is pleased and proud to support OU's effort to build a world-class cancer center in Oklahoma City," said Kim Henry, executive director. “We welcome the opportunity to help fight cancer in the research lab, while also supporting patients and their families as they fight cancer in their own lives.”  

Of the total five-year pledge from the Sarkeys Foundation, $500,000 is designated to help recruit 20 top research scientists to move the Cancer Center to the level of National Cancer Institute-funded research needed to meet the goal for NCI designation.

This investment to bring top researchers and physicians to Oklahoma can have significant benefits, including increased availability of clinical trials for Oklahoma cancer patients, giving them access to cutting-edge cancer treatment options and access to new drugs. 

In addition to the physical toll of cancer on patients, it also can create psychological, financial and emotional strains. To ease this burden, the Stephenson Cancer Center’s Patient and Family Services Program offers patients and families a wide variety of supportive care services, including:

  • patient navigators to assist with appointments, provide directions, gather information and tests, and answer questions, including two navigators who work to meet the unique needs of American Indian patients; 
  • nurse navigators to serve as case coordinators for medical records, follow-up appointments, and treatment plans;
  • a registered dietitian and a dietetic technician to counsel patients before, during, and after treatment;
  • a volunteer and patient resources coordinator, who helps ensure that patients and their caregivers have access to important information regarding cancer;
  • social workers to address such needs as transportation, lodging, food, drug assistance, and emotional issues.

Because insurance does not typically cover these programs, private dollars are critical to funding Cancer Center Patient and Family Services. The grant from the Sarkeys Foundation establishes a $500,000 endowment that will help provide funding in perpetuity for these programs.

The Sarkeys Foundation grant is the latest of many generous donations from the Norman-based foundation to support a broad range of OU projects and programs, from scholarships to the Energy Center and from fine arts to athletics, to name a few. 

The foundation was established by S.J. Sarkeys, who came to the United States from Lebanon in 1891 at the age of 17. Sarkeys made his living peddling carbide lamps throughout Oklahoma Territory, buying farmland and oil and gas leases whenever opportunity and income allowed. Three years before he died at age 90, he created the Sarkeys Foundation with the open-ended goal of “improving the quality of life in Oklahoma.”

As Oklahoma’s only academic cancer center, the Stephenson Cancer Center represents the largest public-private biomedical initiative in state history.  Established after the state legislature called on OU to assume statewide leadership in cancer prevention, treatment, research and education, the Cancer Center opened a new out-patient treatment and clinical research facility in 2011. The Cancer Center features Oklahoma’s most experienced and largest number of cancer specialists, the most advanced cancer technology and a wide array of supportive services.  More than 150 Cancer Center researchers lead research laboratories across the state, with more than $25 million in external research funding from organizations like the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society. 

For additional information, visit www.StephensonCancerCenter.org