A multimillion-dollar gift has allowed the UCLA Division of Digestive Diseases to provide patients with an innovative home health program; supported new, minimally invasive treatment procedures; and funded state-of-the-art gastroenterology research. The funding has helped the division deliver the highest level of care to patients and offer novel approaches to medical therapies.
The generous gift, from the Melvin and Bren Simon Charitable Foundation, was made in memory of Melvin Simon, whose dynamic spirit was a driving force behind his many accomplishments—from co-founding the Simon Property Group, one of the largest shopping mall companies in the United States, to his longtime co-ownership of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers.
The gift is a tribute to Melvin’s achievements and furthers his wife Bren’s tireless advocacy for programs that transform lives. It establishes the Melvin and Bren Simon Digestive Diseases Center at UCLA, an umbrella structure for all of the clinical operations and centers for excellence of the UCLA Division of Digestive Diseases.
The center will provide the resources to strengthen a practice group of 60 physicians and medical staff, provide patients with the state-of-the-art technologies and support key division programs.
“We are very pleased to be able to contribute to the work and future of digestive diseases care at UCLA,” said Bren Simon, who wanted to give back to the division in thanks for its care for Melvin, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2009 at the age of 82.
Over the past three decades, Bren Simon has been committed to supporting programs that help improve lives, including the United States Institute of Peace, which helps forge international unity, and the National Democratic Institute, a nonpartisan organization that supports women’s political progress internationally. She directs both the Melvin and Bren Simon Foundation and the Joshua Max Simon Charitable Foundation.
“We thank the Simons for their tremendous generosity,” said Dr. Gary Gitnick, the Fran and Ray Stark Foundation Chair in Digestive Diseases and chief of the Division of Digestive Diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, which is a leader in the diagnosis, treatment and research aimed at combating debilitating and deadly disorders affecting the gastrointestinal tract. “We strive to provide unparalleled care, innovative research and robust physician training. The Simon Foundation’s gift will strongly support us in our mission.”
The multiyear gift has already made a difference, enabling the division to recruit faculty members to expand its program in inflammatory bowel diseases. Funds from the gift have also helped develop a state-of-the-art home care program, through which patients can use tablet computers to receive real-time support from their nurses and doctors. The program currently serves patients with debilitating diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and it will be expanded to patients with other chronic gastrointestinal disorders.
“We’re dedicated to staying on the cutting edge of medicine and health care delivery,” said Dr. Eric Esrailian, co-chief of the Division of Digestive Diseases and the medical director for the Simon Center. “We’re extremely grateful to Bren Simon for her transformative gift, which will support patient care and research for years to come.”
Several other key division programs will benefit from the gift, including the Esophageal Center; the Center for Interventional Endoscopy, which offers the latest minimally invasive procedures to treat a wide range of digestive disorders involving the colon, gall bladder, pancreas and esophagus; and the Center for Systems Biomedicine, which is focused on identifying the immune-cell composition of pancreatic tumors and better understanding tumors’ resistance to cancer drugs.
The Division of Digestive Diseases’ clinical, research and training programs engage in creative and innovative approaches to understanding and treating gastrointestinal disorders. Celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2013, the division is continually ranked among the top 10 digestive diseases centers in the United States in U.S. News & World Report’s annual survey.