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UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital Receives $8 Million, Legacy of Briggs Family

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

(Cleveland, Ohio) University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital will benefit from an $8 million estate gift from Lois Ralls Briggs of Beachwood. The gift through the William & Lois Briggs Funds of the Cleveland Foundation establishes two new endowed chairs in neonatology, as well as the William and Lois Briggs Fund for Discovery in Neonatology.

“They didn’t have any children of their own,” says Andy Briggs, Lois and Williams Briggs’ nephew. “My aunt was always generous to charities and she just wanted to make sure children in Cleveland got good care. She just wanted to make a difference with kids.”

Lois Briggs had taken a tour of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in the 1980s and was inspired to support UH Rainbow’s Neonatology Division through her annual giving. Her husband, William, passed away in 1976 at the age of 57 after serving as president of her family’s company, Pressure Casting, Inc. in Euclid, Ohio. When Mrs. Briggs, a Shaker Heights native and Ohio Wesleyan graduate, passed away in October 2009, she made UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital the principal beneficiary of the estate, again showing her abiding commitment to neonatology.

“This generous bequest from the late Lois Briggs will allow us to enhance our understanding of disorders that affect newborns and improve outcomes for premature infants,” says Michael Konstan, MD, Chairman of Pediatrics and Austin Ricci Chair in Pediatric Pulmonary Care and Research at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. “It will also support discovery as we look for new ways to protect and preserve the lives of our most fragile patients. We are so grateful that Mrs. Briggs left as her legacy the ability for Rainbow to continue its pioneering work in neonatology.”

The two endowed chairs and discovery fund support and honor the work of UH Rainbow neonatologists by funding leading-edge clinical research and training future leaders in the field of neonatology while providing an important recruitment tool. The $5 million endowed research fund will provide annual seed money for promising projects and clinical innovations as well as supplement ongoing clinical research at UH Rainbow.

UH Rainbow currently ranks in the nation’s Top 5 for neonatology in U.S. News & World Report and has long been acclaimed for its newborn care. Since 1958, when world-renowned Dr. Benjamin Spock began his groundbreaking child-rearing study, UH Rainbow has been at the forefront of advancing the field of neonatology.

UH Rainbow’s innovations include designing the jet ventilator in 1980 and helping pioneer the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) center in 1987. Since the 1990s, internationally known UH Rainbow neonatologists Avroy Fanaroff, MD, and Richard Martin, MD, together with Michele Walsh, MD, wrote and edited the definitive medical text books on newborn care while many of the world's leading neonatologists trained at UH Rainbow. Because of this seminal work, a baby weighing 2.25 lbs. had a 10 percent chance of survival at the advent of neonatology 40 years ago while, today, the survival rate at UH Rainbow has improved to 96% – among the highest in the nation.

Building on its neonatal legacy, in 2009 UH opened the $26 million Quentin & Elisabeth Alexander Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, one of the most technologically advanced NICUs in the world. The Alexander NICU treats more than 1,200 babies each year and has single rooms for each baby (so parents can be with their newborn 24 hours a day), the world's first operating room table designed specifically for babies (the Rainbow Flex), and technology such as baby cameras on each isolette and the ability to completely individualize the lighted environment for each patient.

Dr. Walsh, Chief of Division of Neonatology, has been named the first holder of the William and Lois Briggs Chair in Neonatology at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. Dr. Walsh, who is also Professor of Pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, has distinguished herself as a clinician-researcher with expertise in epidemiology, clinical trials, and neonatal pulmonology. Dr. Walsh is the principal investigator for the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Neonatal Research Network and also leads the Cuyahoga County site of the NICHD National Children’s Study.

“This is an extremely important way to support and honor the work of Dr. Walsh and her neonatal division,” says Dr. Konstan. “Dr. Walsh and our neonatal team have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to advancing neonatal medicine and this is an important step to continue Rainbow’s legacy as a worldwide leader in this field.”

“My aunt was very modest – low key and anonymous,” says Andy Briggs of the woman who quietly left her family’s imprint on UH Rainbow and the NICU for generations by her generous and lasting gift, one that will fund research and attract the best to UH Rainbow to impact the lives of its most fragile patients. “She was a great person.”

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