In 2021, Virginia Mason Franciscan Health (VMFH) launched the new Center for Digestive Health with a bold vision to ensure every patient has easy access to digestive healthcare and a team of experts working together to meet their unique needs. Now, that plan is becoming a reality, thanks in part to philanthropy.
Collaboration across specialties is especially important in digestive health because it is a complex area of healthcare. Digestive health includes many organ systems – the stomach, intestines, liver, pancreas and more – and all of the conditions that can affect them.
“We wanted to give patients the ability to take a leading role in their health journey and that’s what the Center for Digestive Health is about,” Cindy Rockfeld, Executive Division Director of the Center for Digestive Health, says. “One of our founding promises to our patients is to include their perspectives and needs in our unique multidisciplinary approach to care.”
Additionally, patients often experience symptoms like abdominal pain that could be tied to many different conditions. The new center was designed to give each patient a team of experts who can get to the root of their symptoms and create a care plan to meet their unique needs.
“No matter where a patient begins their care with us – from gastroenterology and hepatology to surgery and oncology – they’ll have access to experts across our Center for Digestive Health,” Cindy says.
In launching the new program, VMFH leaders were able to put their full vision into action thanks to a number of major gifts and donor-funded endowments that provide crucial support to specialties within digestive health care.
“Because of donor dollars we’ve filled equipment needs at hospitals and outpatient clinics so that no matter where a patient arrives, they can get the care they need,” Cindy says. “We’re grateful to every donor and patient who has trusted us with their health and the health of their loved ones.”
Another priority for the Center for Digestive Health is to increase VMFH’s reputation as a top-tier teaching facility, educating the next generation of leaders and experts in digestive health-related fields. Philanthropy played a crucial role by providing support for aspiring physicians in their residency or fellowship.
Looking inwards, the VMFH team also wanted to identify improvements to patient treatments and care that would be beneficial to the greater medical community. Over the last seven years, more than 1,000 VMFH patients have participated in 120 clinical trials specific to digestive health. Clinical trial findings have led to 458 journal articles and 14 books.
“With the foundation’s partnership, we’ve been able to push our education and research initiatives forward at a consistent pace,” Cindy says. “Those initiatives translate to more accessibility to highly trained experts and more research being done to inform better patient care.”