[Irene Dunne Guild member] Mary and Jay Flaherty have donated $5 million to Saint John’s Health Center Foundation in support of the exceptional health care and research of Providence Saint John’s Health Center, John Wayne Cancer Institute and Pacific Neuroscience Institute.
“We’re so thankful to Mary and Jay for their generous gift,” said foundation president and CEO Bob Klein. “This gift not only supports ground breaking, bench to bedside research and health care, it signals to the larger community that this campus is worthy of major support. This type of philanthropy is absolutely critical to bringing state-of-the-art medical care to more people.”
The $5 million gift will be shared equally among John Wayne Cancer Institute, Pacific Neuroscience Institute and Providence Saint John’s Health Center, the anchor of the three affiliates. “The compassionate and personalized care that Saint John’s is known for, coupled with the cutting-edge research of John Wayne Cancer Institute and Pacific Neuroscience Institute, is a unique model in health care and a partnership destined for great success in the field of medicine, which is why we wanted to provide our support,” said Mary Flaherty.
Mary Flaherty is a grateful patient of Saint John’s and she currently serves as Chair of Saint John’s Health Center Foundation Board of Trustees. “My connection to Saint John’s is a family tradition that goes back more than forty years. Saint John’s and its affiliates have been there for me and my family as the cornerstone of our health care and we want to ensure its success as a world-class health center for years to come,” said Mary and her husband, Jay.
The gift will support new developments in breast cancer treatment and research, advancements in the field of neurosciences and cardiology, as well as technology updates to ensure Saint John’s, John Wayne Cancer Institute and the newly formed Pacific Neuroscience Institute, build upon their reputation as pioneers in medicine.
“The Flaherty’s are pillars of our community and their gift will allow us to make enhancements to programs and services so we can offer the latest in medical treatments to those in need. This empowers our caregivers, doctors and nurses to do what they do best, treating each patient with compassion and dignity,” said Marcel Loh, chief executive of Providence Saint John’s Health Center and John Wayne Cancer Institute.
Saint John’s Health Center has been with Mary Flaherty through the best of times and the worst of times. The best times were when two of her three children were born at the Health Center: Mary Catherine in 1986 and Maureen in 1992.
The first of the worst times came in between those births when Flaherty was treated for breast cancer after being diagnosed in 1989 at age 32. Twelve years later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer again and was treated at Saint John’s.
“That’s how I got involved in women’s health,” says Flaherty, a Foundation trustee and longtime Health Center supporter. “I feel you have to make lemonade out of lemons. Some good had to come out of it.”
Flaherty is grateful that the second cancer was a new primary cancer, not a spread of the original, which is a more challenging prognosis. She now mentors women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, focusing on education, prevention and encouragement.
"Saint John’s is special to our family. There is a spiritual aspect to Saint John’s, an emotional, social and psychological aspect to treatment that you don’t get elsewhere. That gives patients an extra advantage when it comes to healing.” – Mary Flaherty
However, her dedication to the Health Center predates her personal experiences. You might say Saint John’s is a family tradition. Her father, Jim Hesburgh, is a trustee emeritus and former chair of the Foundation. Nearly 30 years ago, Flaherty, her mother, Mary, and Sister Marie Madeleine Shonka, SCL, met with Saint John’s benefactor, actress Irene Dunne.
“I was one of the founding members of the Irene Dunne Guild and was president when it was newly formed,” Flaherty says. She led the guild in 1989–1991 and 1994–1995.
The guild was just the beginning. Flaherty joined the Saint John’s Health Center Foundation board in 2003 and remains a trustee today. She also joined the Health Center board of directors in 2007 and chaired the board in 2011–2012.
“I really loved serving on the hospital board,” Flaherty says. “The board was able to accomplish many great things, and it was an amazing group of directors. It was a cohesive group of people who worked well together and had a commitment that is seldom found at other health care institutions.”
Most recently Flaherty was benefit committee chair for Power of Pink 2014: An Acoustic Evening with P!NK and Friends, held on October 23. Proceeds benefited cancer prevention programs at the Margie Petersen Breast Center.
Flaherty also serves on the board and is incoming chair of the Yo San University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Los Angeles. She had acupuncture during chemotherapy in her second battle with breast cancer. “I see a merging of Eastern and Western medicine throughout health care,” she says.
When she’s not busy with assorted boards and committees in her Westside community, Flaherty loves to travel and spend time with her far-flung family: a son and daughter in Illinois, a daughter in Texas and parents in Indiana. At home, she and her husband Jay have three dogs.
“I joke we replaced every child with a dog when the child left home,” she said. They now have two German shepherds and a golden mix. Two dogs are rescues.
During her time on the Foundation and Health Center boards, she has served on a multitude of committees including women’s health, board affairs, governance, strategic, finance, audit and quality control, to name a few.
“I feel like I earned a master’s or PhD in health care through my experience on these committees,” Flaherty jokes. “I’ve also made a lot of really wonderful friends through various committees. Saint John’s is special to our family. There is a spiritual aspect to Saint John’s, an emotional, social and psychological aspect to treatment that you don’t get elsewhere. That gives patients an extra advantage when it comes to healing.” And Flaherty understands healing very well.
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New leadership team reaffirms Guild’s strong commitment to support the Health Center.
WRITTEN BY SANDI DRAPER PHOTOGRAPHED BY LAUREN PRESSEY
Ana Belden, left, and Kate Prudente will lead the Irene Dunne Guild in 2014.
Kate Prudente and Ana Belden are following in the footsteps of Irene Dunne, an actress in the 1930s and ’40s and five-time Academy Award nominee. No, the two aren’t walking the red carpet. Rather, they are following Dunne’s leadinglady role as a philanthropic supporter of Saint John’s Health Center. Prudente and Belden are the new president and vice president, respectively, of the Irene Dunne Guild (IDG), a group of philanthropic women that has been raising funds for programs and services and volunteering in many ways at the Health Center since 1987.Prudente became involved with the Guild in 2006 when she attended its “Think Pink” women’s health educational event and luncheon. She became acquainted with Belden through various Guild events.
They also have children of similar ages, so their paths crossed for several years before they joined forces for the Guild. In addition, Prudente’s husband is an internist and current chairman of medicine at Saint John’s Health Center, and Belden “comes from a family of doctors.”
“I wanted to find a way to become involved,” Prudente says. “I started out in the membership committee, but for the last few years have served on the committee that selects which new hospital projects we will fund, which is extremely gratifying.”
The Guild has about 120 members who are asked to volunteer for at least one Guild program. “Some members definitely have favorite projects,” Prudente says. “But ideally, they rotate in and out of committees so that they can work with different women in the Guild and use their skills and energies in new ways.”
She adds, “Our outgoing president and vice president, Catherine Corlin and Judy Piro, are terrific examples, as they have both served the Guild in countless ways, including chairing the Caritas Gala and serving on numerous Guild committees. It is an honor to follow in their footsteps and represent this group of women who accomplish wonderful things for Saint John’s in a very understated way.”
Guild participation is a wonderful way to give back to a hospital that’s dedicated to the community, says Corlin. “The care at Saint John’s Health Center is compassionate and also cutting edge. We are ranked one of the 50 best hospitals in the country. The members of the Guild are very dedicated to the Health Center. Most of them receive their care here.”
Guild members range in age from their 20s into their 80s, Corlin notes. Members can become deeply involved in activities or, if they work or are are busy with young children, can volunteer for a minimum number of hours.
The new team of Prudente and Belden will bring out the best talents of the members, Corlin predicts. “I’m really looking forward to working with them. They will be a great leadership team.”
Prudente says Guild members are proud to represent the Health Center. “For the coming year, I hope to emphasize our role as goodwill ambassadors to the community as in our mission statement. With the new sponsorship of Saint John’s, I believe Guild members – who are active, dynamic women in the community – can play a key role in helping communicate some of the changes at Saint John's.”
And speaking like a true vice president, Belden says: “My #1 goal is to serve Kate, our members and our Foundation. If I do that, I know I will be serving the hospital and the community and its needs.”
Among the Guild activities are:
“One of the most attractive things about the Guild is the many ways that members can get involved—from distributing treats for caregivers in the hospital and volunteering in the gift shop to helping plan and execute our major events,” Prudente says. “The Guild offers a nice mix of ‘front-line’ and ‘behind-the-scenes’ volunteering. We are very excited about the future of Saint John’s.”
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