Endowed Chair Honors Friendship Born Half Century Ago

Posted in GUMC Stories

MAY 23, 2014—A decades-long friendship rooted in a shared devotion to the health and well-being of children has culminated in a new endowed chair at Georgetown University (new window).

Georgetown celebrated the establishment of the Philip L. Calcagno, MD, and Jeane and James Dixon Endowed Chair in Pediatrics at a ceremony May 6.

The chair fulfills a gift made by the late Jeane Dixon, best known as an astrologer and psychic who penned a highly popular syndicated newspaper astrology column. Also a dedicated philanthropist, in 1963 Dixon founded a nonprofit organization called Children to Children, Inc., which is devoted to fostering the physical, mental, educational and spiritual growth of children.

She remained active in the charity until her death in 1997 and the organization has fulfilled the gift agreement in collaboration with her estate in accordance with her wishes.

A Deep Friendship

In the early 1960s, Dixon and her husband James had formed a deep friendship with the founding director of the department of pediatrics at Georgetown University School of Medicine (new window), Philip L. Calcagno (M’42), MD. They were connected by a passion for children’s health issues.

“… I am struck by the extraordinary friendship of Philip Calcagano and Jeane and James Dixon. And this friendship was a collaboration for the public good—for the health and well-being of hundreds, if not thousands, of children, and for future generations of children,” Howard J. Federoff, MD, PhD (new window), executive vice president for health sciences at Georgetown University Medical Center (new window) (GUMC), said at the event.

Through their respective institutions, the Dixons and Calcagno each sought to advance research and treatment in pediatric medicine—never losing sight of their common goals.

In his remarks, Calcagno reminisced about the early days in the department he started, which since has grown to include more than 25 specialty areas including pediatric and neonatal intensive care.

He said that, in order for physicians of tomorrow to be prepared to meet the challenges of “evolving new health care delivery,” endowed chairs are necessary to “achieve the high quality of training and to allow the student to identify with examples of excellence and help support the fiscal balance of the University.”

Georgetown President John J. DeGioia, PhD (new window), lauded Calcagno for helping “build the department into what it is today—a nationally and internationally recognized pediatrics center.”

“This new chair will deepen for our department of pediatrics, and indeed, our entire medical center, opportunities for research, for experimentation, for discovery—opportunities that can lead to new treatments [and] new cures,” DeGioia said.

An Ongoing Commitment

Georgetown’s ongoing commitment to pediatric care is evidenced through both its clinical care and research missions. In partnership with MedStar Health, the clinical pediatrics department has expanded its services in small bowel and liver transplantation and community pediatrics.

And Georgetown pediatric care providers are out in the community, providing primary care to the District’s underserved residents through the Mobile Van Project, the HOYA Clinic (new window) in Southeast Washington and a school-based health center in Anacostia.

Georgetown also hosts a robust pediatric residency program, and offers both clinical and research fellowships.

Pediatric research is also a key priority. The department is home to two research centers of excellence: the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development (new window), and the C.W. Bill Young DoD Marrow Donor Program (new window). Physician scientists in the department research a variety of subjects such as infant mortality, lung diseases, COPD and fetal alcohol syndrome.

Federoff emphasized the importance of endowed chairs in continuing to meet the research and clinical missions of GUMC.

“To be preeminent as an academic medical center we need to continue to attract and retain the very best physician-researchers. And that is what endowed chairs enable us to do,” he said.

By Lauren Wolkoff
GUMC Communications