Longtime County Commissioner Fred Skillern and his wife, Betty, have donated $3 million to Memorial Hospital for the Rees Skillern Cancer Center.
The Skillerns lost their only son to cancer two years ago at the age of 49. Rees, a business leader and investor, battled cancer for many years and received much of his treatment at Memorial including a lengthy stay in the oncology inpatient unit surrounded by his loving family and friends. Rees expressed his wish that his estate be used to benefit others, and Mr. and Mrs. Skillern are honoring his wishes with the gift to the Memorial Foundation for the advancement of cancer care in the community.
“Rees was so giving, and we wanted his giving spirit and his memory to live on at Memorial,” said Fred Skillern. “It was very important to us that part of this gift would be used for additional research opportunities in this community, where it would be most beneficial to our friends, family and neighbors.”
In honor of Rees, Memorial’s total cancer program will now be called the Rees Skillern Cancer Institute. This will be the umbrella name over programs, including the MaryEllen Locher Breast Center, the H. Clay Evans Johnson Radiation Center, the Schmissrauter Center for Cancer Support, and all other special programs. In addition to exterior and interior renovations of the Institute, the generous gift will fund the new Memorial Cancer Risk and Survivor Center which will offer three highly specialized services that will make a tremendous difference in the early detection and treatment of cancer and offer services that are currently not available in the Chattanooga region.
The center will be the first dedicated, high-risk genetic counseling clinic in the area. Though Memorial has been providing cancer risk counseling for 15 years, this will provide the opportunity to make genetic testing part of the total picture for early detection and more accurate diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
Officials said, "Memorial will develop the first dedicated, multi-disciplinary resource for adult cancer survivors, empowering survivors to maximize their health, quality of life and longevity. The center will also provide information on the prevention, detection and treatment complications that can result from cancer treatment.
"Memorial plans to give cancer patients in the area greater access to the latest treatments for cancer. While Memorial will not be performing laboratory research, it will increase the emphasis on research. The number of clinical trails and the amount of research available is expected to increase at an accelerated rate."
“We are at a crossroads of exciting new ways to improve cancer detection and treatment for everyone in the community, creating a legacy of advanced cancer care at Memorial benefiting thousands of people throughout our community.” said James Hobson, CEO, Memorial Health Care System. “Expanding Memorial’s multi-faceted approach of oncology services would not be possible without the Skillerns’ generosity and the many dedicated supporters of the Memorial Foundation.”