Honoring Aunt Frances
Mizzou alumnus gives $2.4 million for cancer research.
Everybody has been touched by cancer. Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin’s mother, grandmother and great-grandmother died from the disease. So did Mark McAndrew’s mother and sister. When his Aunt Frances died May 19, 2013, from cancer, he was motivated to do something.
McAndrew, BS BA ’75, of McKinney, Texas, announced today a gift of $2 million to the University School of Medicine to create the Frances T. McAndrew Endowed Chair in Oncology and $400,000 to fund MU Curators Professor M. Frederick Hawthorne’s cancer research.
“My Aunt Frances was a special person,” McAndrew said, choking back tears. “She was goofy, she was funny, she was silly. She was always selfless, even when she was struggling with this disease.”
That selflessness impressed Noah Wald-Dickler, a Mizzou medical student who was part of the health care team who treated Frances McAndrew during her stay at Ellis Fischel. Through his interactions with her, he was inspired to write an essay for the Legacy Teachers Program, which celebrates patients as teachers in medical students’ training. In his essay written in 2012, Wald-Dickler recounted his first meeting with Frances as she was undergoing an uncomfortable cervical exam.
“I saw Ms. McAndrew’s face wince,” he wrote. “Without thinking, I reached out and took hold of her hand. My gesture was reciprocated by a series of hand squeezes that I couldn’t be sure weren’t more to comfort me than from the certain pain she was experiencing.”
The next morning when Wald-Dickler returned to check on Frances McAndrew, he was certain she wouldn’t remember who he was. But she did: “Where’s that sweet, sweet boy Noah from the clinic? I just want to tell him I didn’t mean to squeeze his hand so tight yesterday. Oh, I hope he’s alright.”
Throughout the year and a half Frances McAndrew was treated at Ellis Fischel, Wald-Dickler got to know her and her family, always by her side, offering words of comfort and support to one another.
“Not all the epidemiology, pathophysiology, technical skills or clinical experience I acquire in my medical training will remain more prominent in my mind than the lessons Frances and her family taught me. As I progress in knowledge and competence, I can only hope that I can convey even a small piece of the compassion and strength that the McAndrews live each and every day,” wrote Wald-Dickler, MD ’13, who is now an internal medicine resident at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.
Joining Mark McAndrew at the gift announcement were 11 McAndrew family members and friends, including Frances McAndrew’s daughters Cathy Randolph, Chris Curtis and Heidi Schutte and son Thomas McAndrew.
“She would have been shocked [by Mark McAndrew’s gift],” Randolph said. “She would have wondered why she was getting attention when there are so many people out there who need help.”
Hal Williamson Jr., executive vice chancellor for Health Affairs, assured the gift will help people who need help.
“The gift will advance the University of Missouri Health System‘s mission of providing world-class cancer care at our Ellis Fischel Cancer Center,” Williamson said. “But not only is it about caring for and treating people who are living with cancer, but the creation of this endowed chair position will also help enhance and extend the university’s research efforts, with the ultimate goal of finding a cure for cancer.”
Mark McAndrew’s ties to MU Health Care go deeper than his aunt. When he was in his senior year at Mizzou in 1974, his oldest daughter, Emily Padalino, was born. But if he hadn’t been a student at the University of Missouri and if his family hadn’t have been at University Hospital, his daughter might not be alive today.
“At that time, the fetal monitor was new technology,” McAndrew said. “Without that, she would not be here today because during labor, her heart stopped. I think it took about four minutes for her to be delivered by emergency C-section. At any other hospital in the area at the time, she would have been born stillborn. I truly owe this medical center and this university so much.”
Mark McAndrew has now given more than $3.8 million to MU, including $1.4 million to fund the University of Missouri Flagship Scholars program in Clark County, Missouri.
“I hope to see the day when there is no need for a chair in oncology, that we come up with a cure for this terrible disease,” McAndrew said. “Until then, hopefully this gift will, in some way, save a life or extend a life or at least improve the quality of people’s lives in the state of Missouri.”