COLUMBIA, Mo. – Mark McAndrew, a resident of McKinney, Texas, has given $2.4 million to the University of Missouri School of Medicine to create the Frances T. McAndrew Endowed Chair in Oncology. $400,000 of the gift will fund MU cancer researcher Fred Hawthorne’s innovative research on boron-neutron therapy as a treatment for cancer. McAndrew says the gift is in honor of his late aunt, Frances, who was a patient at the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, a part of University of Missouri Health Care.
“Frances was a tremendous person— truly a good soul—and it is a privilege to be able to make this gift in her honor,” McAndrew said. “Growing up in rural Missouri, I can say that rural Missourians have always looked to the University of Missouri health system as a source for care above and beyond the routine. Frances always spoke highly of the top-notch care she received at the MU Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, and I hope this gift will help continue to advance the premier research and care the MU health system provides.”
McAndrew’s gift was inspired by his aunt’s battle with cancer as well as an inspiring essay written by Noah Wald-Dickler, an MU School of Medicine student who treated Frances during her stay at the hospital. In his essay, Wald-Dickler praised Frances and the rest of the McAndrew family for their strength and grace during such a difficult time.
He concluded his essay by writing:
“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.”
“Noah’s essay paints a perfect picture of Frances,” McAndrew said. “She was always pleasant, always had a smile on her face and always selfless, even when battling cancer and in extreme pain. She never complained and always cared about others more than herself. She truly was a wonderful person who will be greatly missed.”
“Mr. McAndrew’s generosity and the spirit of his late aunt, Frances, are inspirations to the entire MU community,” MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin said. “This gift will allow MU to attract and retain the highest caliber cancer researchers for decades to come. The fight against cancer is a long battle, but with strong support such as this, MU will play a leading role in future advancements in treatments.”
A national search to hire the first researcher to hold the Frances McAndrew Endowed Chair in Oncology will begin soon.
With his latest gift, Mark McAndrew has given more than $3.8 million to MU. His past gifts include $1.4 million to fund the Clark County Flagship Scholarship, which provides four-year academic scholarships to MU students from Clark County. McAndrew is a 1975 MU graduate with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and is a member of the Mizzou Alumni Association. He retired as chairman and chief executive officer of Torchmark, a holding company specializing in life and supplemental health insurance.
A full copy of Noah Wald-Dickler’s essay about his experiences treating Frances McAndrew and his interactions with the McAndrew family can be read below:
Legacy Teacher Frances McAndrew
By Noah Wald-Dickler
Having no children, having next to zero experience with pregnant women, and being somewhat intimidated by the frantic blur of operating rooms, I entered my obstetrics and gynecology rotation fully expecting to be inundated with a flood of new and unfamiliar situations. What I did not expect was to meet a woman whose character and family would touch me in a way that I will carry with me throughout my professional career.
As was the case on most days on our Gynecologic Oncology service, we were running behind. Earlier that morning we had been involved in a long surgical staging operation that ran an hour longer than expected. As I rushed over to our clinic across town, I could just imagine how busy we would be trying to fit in the afternoon patient load. And, sure enough, as I rushed off the elevator still trying to smooth out my white coat, I could see a waiting room full of patients and nurses scrambling about. Flopping down into a chair in our swamp, I picked up the top record from a formidable stack of waiting patients’ charts. I scanned the cover sheet and learned that Ms. McAndrew was a new patient to clinic referred by an outside physician for weight loss and increased abdominal girth. Her radiology records contained a CT scan that showed adnexal masses and significant omental caking and ascites. This constellation of findings most certainly meant that Ms. McAndrew had an aggres! sive, late stage gynecologic or colon cancer. As with any new, serious diagnosis I encounter, my heart sank. I felt sorry, both for the patient and at the thought that I might see this woman only once and not be the slightest bit of help or comfort to her. On both counts, I could not have been more wrong.
As students in that clinic, we only interviewed and examined established clinic patients on our own, which meant that I would be going in to see Ms. Frances McAndrew together with the resident working in clinic that day. We walked into a room full of anxious-looking people huddled around a pleasant, grandmotherly-type woman sitting as patiently as if she had not a worry in the world. My shoulders slumped a bit as I thought to myself that with the frenzied pace of the clinic and this overcrowded room, I would be just another face to this woman who most certainly would be confronted with a devastating diagnosis. After interviewing the patient and attempting, with limited success, to answer her children’s myriad questions, we asked Ms. McAndrew to change into a gown and told her we would return soon with our attending to exam her and perform a pelvic ultrasound. As we stepped out of the room, my resident sighed: a simple gesture that seemed a fitting summary of an infinitely complex situation.
After presenting the patient to our attending physician, Dr. Hunter, we returned to Ms. McAndrew’s crowded exam room. There she sat, feet dangling playfully as they hung off the edge of the exam table. I saw a striking reflection of an inner youth not so far distant. After answering a few more questions, she laid back on the table, assuming that most clumsy and uncomfortable of positions. After a speculum exam and Pap smear, Dr. Hunter began to prepare for an endocervical cerclage. As I heard the clamp being locked onto her cervix, I cringed as I saw Ms. McAndrew’s face wince. 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. Our ensuing ultrasound really only confirmed what her CT had shown: two large, ominous appearing ovaries almost certainly overflowing with an insatiable blight of cancerous cells! . After she dressed, we discussed how important it would be to perform surgery as soon as possible as her cancer was already at a very advanced stage. Tears flowed on all faces in the room but one. And it was Frances who offered the greatest words of comfort to her loved ones. We quickly drew some basic pre-operative labs, and because they showed significant dehydration and decreased renal function, we decided it would be best for Ms. McAndrew to stay in the hospital until her surgery. It had been scheduled for later that week. With final questions only partially answered and concerns still not fully assuaged, the family left the clinic hurrying to make plans. Plans to bring clothes. Plans to call in-laws and siblings and grandchildren. Plans for where to stay in this city, hours away from their hometown. Plans upon plans for what none of them could be certain of. As I watched them all cram into a tiny elevator that made the exam room seem like an auditorium, hugs were dole! d out freely and comforting arms were draped around shoulders.! I was s urprised to feel a sense of relief. Not at this most dire of circumstances now confronting her, rather at the abundance of support and love that she had to help her through her ensuing struggle.
The next morning, Ms. McAndrew was the last patient I saw on my pre-rounds. As I knocked on the door, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was certain that nobody would remember the quiet medical student from amongst all the chaos from the day before. I entered the room to a multitude of smiles and hugs. I could hardly contain my surprise as Ms. McAndrew’s oldest daughter, Kathy, told me that all evening and morning her mother had been asking about me. She’d keep asking, “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 my history and exam I found myself reassuring Ms. McAndrew that I was fine more than offering the results of her labs and imaging from the day before. Stuffing my things into my pocket and preparing to report for the morning’s surgeries, I turned to leave and was stopped by Kathy. She embraced me with a big hug and whispered t! o me, “Thank you for yesterday. It meant the world to mom.”
I saw Frances on rounds every morning leading up to her surgery. Each day I was privy to a new display of empathy and support, Ms. McAndrew always at the heart of it all. I came to know each of her children and even her grandchildren and a great grandson. I heard stories about the liquor store Ms. McAndrew and her husband had run before he passed away even though neither he nor she ever drank alcohol. I learned about her passion for gardening. I learned about her son who was living in Pennsylvania with Prader-Willi Syndrome. Day-by-day the evidence for Ms. McAndrew’s strength and endurance grew. I shared stories of my chronically-ill sister who had recently passed away and I spoke of how the McAndrew family reminded me of my own in how close they were despite overwhelming circumstances. I would blush with embarrassment as Frances and her daughters would tell me what a wonderful doctor I would be and asked when I would start practicing and what field I was interested in.! Day after day, I found myself more blessed for having been bestowed with the opportunity to come to know this remarkable woman and family.
The day of her surgery came. I remember being shocked at the utterly indiscriminate dissemination of Frances’ cancer. There it was, smeared so ineloquently on her uterus, bowels, omentum and pelvic sidewall. It spread up to involve parts of her liver and gallbladder. After a grueling six-hour debulking operation during which we removed heaps upon heaps of foul, dying tissue and liters of free abdominal fluid, Frances’ post-operative course featured its fair share of complications: blood loss requiring transfusion, respiratory depression with intubation, a surgical wound infection and a prolonged post-operative intensive care stay. I can remember her first post-op day, unable to speak and barely able to move. As I stood by her bed examining her wound site, I felt a weak hand reach out to mine and give the faintest – but surest – of squeezes. Though she could not talk, the glimmer in Ms. McAndrew’s eyes was as certain a sign as all the words in the w! orld. The outpouring of love and support never ceased. Day and night, every time I went to see her, there were her daughters and grandchildren. Ever present. Ever vigilant. Ever loving.
I smile to myself every time I think about the day Frances was extubated. Her first words were, “Can I have some Mountain Dew now?”
And when the nurses brought her incentive spirometer, “Do they put Mountain Dew in there?” Day after day, neither the dyspnea from the malignant effusions that arose in her lungs nor the chest tube needed to drain them brought her down. Nothing could infringe upon her determination, her ardent fortitude, with its unending supply of reinforcing love and encouragement. As Frances improved enough for transfer to the general floor and then for discharge home with planned chemotherapy, her sweet smile never faded, her hand squeezes never lightened.
As I bid Kathy and Frances good-bye on the eve of her final night in the hospital, I was brought back to the elevator on that first day in the clinic. Though certainly present, my feelings of uncertainty and doubt were overcome by those of reassurance, in the strength of the love and resilience which permeated the McAndrew family. I was again embarrassed and humbled by the thanks and gratitude Frances and her daughters heaped upon me for what I considered nothing more than a self-enriching experience spending time with a remarkable family. 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.