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Ralph and Sue Stern gift supports cancer care at new UCI hospital in Irvine

Longtime UCI donors’ latest gift adds to legacy of expanding lifesaving care

November 10, 2021
Ralph and Sue Stern
Ralph and Sue Stern

Longtime UCI Health donors Ralph and Sue Stern have expanded their legacy of lifesaving cancer care with another gift for the new to cancer center to be built in Irvine.

In recognition of the family’s latest gift and their lifetime giving of more than $12.5 million to UCI Health, a cancer clinic floor located in the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and Ambulatory Care building at the UCI Medical Center — Irvine will bear their names.

With 36 private exam rooms, the Ralph and Sue Stern cancer floor will integrate research, prevention and the most advanced diagnostics and treatments, as well as rehabilitation programs to offer patients the best possible care.

“Ralph and Sue Stern bring vision and remarkable generosity to the UCI Health fight against cancer, producing new cures and extending the opportunity for more patients to receive the team-based, personalized cancer care that is only possible at an academic health center,” said Steve A.N. Goldstein, MD, PhD, vice chancellor for health affairs at UC Irvine.

"Under the leadership of Dr. Rick Van Etten, the UCI Chao Cancer Family Comprehensive Center is at the forefront of innovation in cancer care through its use of advanced AI/machine learning, genomics and therapeutics, empowered by the compassionate minds of world-class cancer clinician-scientists,” Goldstein said.

In January, UCI and the university’s health enterprise, UCI Health, announced plans to build a medical complex at the north end of the UCI campus, including a 144-bed acute care hospital with emergency department, the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and Ambulatory Care center and UCI Health Center for Advanced Care. The first patients are expected in early 2023 in the Center for Advanced Care, with the hospital and cancer center set for completion in 2025. UCI and UCI Health leaders will break ground on the hospital and medical complex on Nov. 15.

“UCI Health has provided advanced cancer care, rooted in scientific discovery and clinical innovation, longer than anyone in Orange County,” said UCI Health CEO Chad Lefteris. “The support of Ralph and Sue Stern has been a key in advancing this mission — it’s a privilege to continue our relationship as we expand access to lifesaving healthcare across the county.”

For 13 years, Ralph and Sue Stern have given generously, primarily to the UCI School of Medicine and UCI Health. Their $5 million gift in 2014 established the Sue and Ralph Stern Center for Cancer Clinical Trials and Research at the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. Under the leadership of Dr. Susan M. O’Brien, a specialist in hematology-oncology, their support has transformed the cancer center’s clinical research since 2015, including a 300% increase in the number of early-phase trials in the county’s largest cancer trials portfolio.

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 UCI Health Drs. Mark Linskey and Daniela Bota for malignant spinal cord and brain tumors.

Their 2014 gift was made to coincide with the selection of Van Etten, a renowned hematologist-oncologist who specializes in the treatment of leukemia and other blood disorders, as the new director of the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

In 2016, the Orange County couple was honored with the UCI Health Hero Award. Ralph Stern is on the Susan & Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences Advisory Board and the UCI Health Advisory Board. Sue Stern is also on the Samueli College of Health Sciences Advisory Board. The couple has supported cancer research, Holocaust education, Jewish institutions and schools, a community center in Uganda, a clown program to entertain hospitalized children, the theater, Girl’s Inc., a local empowerment program for girls, and science and engineering efforts. In 2019, the Sterns received the Legacy Award on National Philanthropy Day.

Ralph Stern was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, and earned an MBA from Stanford University. He was the CEO of Denar, a manufacturer of devices to treat TMJ disorders, and he also started three companies, ELPower batteries, Steri-Oss, which made dental implants, and CareCredit patient financing. Following the sales of these companies, he acquired Paul’s TV. He currently serves on the board of the Jewish Community Foundation of Orange County. He was also involved with Brandman University, now UMass Global, as a member of the Board of Regents and the Young Presidents’ Organization.

Sue Stern was born and raised in Cincinnati and moved to Los Angeles after graduating from the University of Wisconsin. After moving to Orange County, she became a supporter of various youth programs, including the Santa Ana Auxiliary of Children’s Home Society of California. She also serves on the governing board of Girls Inc., an advocacy and leadership program for girls. The Sterns have donated more than $6 million to Girls Inc. to expand its summer program for girls in middle school. Sue Stern also has mentored a young college student who is now a dental student at the University of Southern California.

About UCI Health: UCI Health is the clinical enterprise of the University of California, Irvine. Patients can access UCI Health at primary and specialty care offices across Orange County and at its main campus, UCI Medical Center in Orange, Calif. The 459-bed, acute-care hospital, listed among America’s Best Hospitals by U.S. News & World Report for 20 consecutive years, provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, as well as behavioral health and rehabilitation services. UCI Medical Center is home to Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centerhigh-risk perinatal/neonatal program and American College of Surgeons-verified Level I adult and Level II pediatric trauma center and regional burn center. It is the primary teaching hospital for the UCI School of Medicine. UCI Health serves a region of nearly 4 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and is ranked among the nation’s top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 224 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $7 billion annually to the local economy and $8 billion statewide. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

About UCI’s Brilliant Future campaign: Publicly launched on Oct. 4, 2019, the Brilliant Future campaign aims to raise awareness and support for UCI. By engaging 75,000 alumni and garnering $2 billion in philanthropic investment, UCI seeks to reach new heights of excellence in student success, health and wellness, research and more. Learn more by visiting brilliantfuture.uci.edu.