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Orange County couple gives $5 million to UCI Health to enhance cancer research

Gift establishes the Sue and Ralph Stern Center for Cancer Clinical Trials and Research at the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

February 21, 2014

Sue and Ralph Stern have made a $5 million gift to UC Irvine, establishing the Sue and Ralph Stern Center for Cancer Clinical Trials and Research at the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, which is part of UCI Health.

The cancer center is Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and the only local institution where people with advanced-stage or treatment-resistant diseases can access early-phase clinical trials involving the very latest therapies. The Sue and Ralph Stern Center for Cancer Clinical Trials and Research will increase both the number and complexity of outcomes-focused clinical trials available for patient participation.

“We are immensely grateful to Sue and Ralph for their generosity and for investing in the promise of better cancer care for our region,” said UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake. “This gift provides a focused environment within the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center for cancer trials and research that we consider integral to our role as an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center. The Sterns’ gift enhances UC Irvine’s involvement in cancer research in ways that will have a lasting impact on the community.”

In 2008, the Sterns turned to UCI Health for help when Sue Stern was diagnosed with a spinal cord tumor. Following her successful treatment, they made two generous gifts in support of ongoing research by UC Irvine Drs. Mark Linskey and Daniela Bota for malignant spinal cord and brain tumors. Their most recent gift was made to coincide with the selection of the new Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center director, Dr. Richard Van Etten, a renowned hematologist and oncologist from Tufts University who specializes in the treatment of leukemia and other blood disorders.

“We are excited that our gift helped recruit a world-class director for the cancer center in Dr. Rick Van Etten,” Ralph Stern said. “The gift provides additional resources for the center to have a significant impact on cancer research and treatment. Our hope is that under Dr. Van Etten’s leadership — and in collaboration with community hospitals — more cancer patients will find quality treatment in Orange County, as we did, without having to go elsewhere.”

“We are grateful to the Sterns for this transformational gift, which will be a catalyst for changing what it means to be diagnosed with cancer,” Van Etten said. “It’s great to be part of a dynamic institution like UCI Health, where people such as the Sterns and other community leaders are stepping in to fill the void left by declining government support. These generous donors make it possible to accelerate the search for better treatments for devastating diseases like cancer.”

Ralph Stern founded and served as CEO of two market-leading healthcare companies, Steri-Oss (dental implants) and CareCredit (patient financing), which were sold to Bausch & Lomb and GE, respectively.

The Sterns are active in the local community. Ralph Stern is involved with the Jewish Community Foundation, Drug Use Is Life Abuse, Brandman University and the World Presidents’ Organization. Sue Stern serves on the board and is a strong supporter of Girls Inc. She has a long history of involvement with South Coast Repertory and several other charitable organizations.

UCI Health comprises the clinical, medical education and research enterprises of the University of California, Irvine. Patients can access UCI Health at physician offices throughout Orange County and at its main campus, UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, Calif., a 412-bed acute care hospital that provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, behavioral health and rehabilitation. U.S. News & World Report has listed it among America’s Best Hospitals for 13 consecutive years. UC Irvine Medical Center features Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, high-risk perinatal/neonatal program, Level I trauma center and Level II pediatric trauma center, and it’s the primary teaching hospital for UC Irvine School of Medicine. UCI Health serves a region of more than 3 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County.