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Indiana University School of Medicine receives $2 million gift from children of Sidney and Lois Eskenazi

July 20, 2016

The children of Indianapolis philanthropists Sidney and Lois Eskenazi have made a $2 million gift to the Indiana University School of Medicine that will be used to recruit a highly accomplished researcher focused on discovering new ways to treat, diagnose, and prevent cancer.

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Income from the endowed fund will provide the faculty researcher with the flexibility to launch early stage investigations, purchase necessary equipment, and hire laboratory staff. | PHOTO COURTESY OF SIMON CANCER CENTER

The gift, to honor their parents, was inspired by Lois Eskenazi’s diagnosis with lung cancer several years ago. She sought treatment from IU oncologist Lawrence Einhorn, M.D., who is world-renowned for developing the cure for testicular cancer and also specializes in lung cancer.

"At the initial diagnosis, the results weren’t good, but we were very lucky and it was operable, so it’s been a success story for us," said David Eskenazi, who made the gift along with his sisters, Sandra Eskenazi and Dori Eskenazi Meyers. "I understand that’s not the case for everybody. But it’s always getting better because of people like Dr. Einhorn, the individuals he works with at the IU School of Medicine, and the research they do. Year after year they’re making cancer more treatable and curable. My sisters and I are honored to be able to do something to recognize that."

The newly recruited faculty member will be known as the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Professor in Hematology-Oncology.

Income from the endowed fund will provide the faculty researcher with the flexibility to launch early stage investigations, purchase necessary equipment, and hire laboratory staff. Thanks to a gift-matching program that is part of For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign, the financial support available each year will essentially be doubled.

"This gift will help us find new ways to treat and cure cancer," said Jay L. Hess, M.D., Ph.D., M.H.S.A., dean of the IU School of Medicine and vice president for university clinical affairs. "We have an excellent group of cancer researchers at Indiana University, and we want to add to that expertise. We are particularly interested in precision medicine, or learning how to customize care for each individual patient. An endowed chair gives us the opportunity to recruit someone to Indiana who is at the forefront of his or her field."

In 1963, Sidney Eskenazi established Sandor Development Co., which grew into one of the nation’s leading real estate development companies. Shortly after, in 1970, he and his wife – both IU alumni – established a scholarship fund at IU.

In 2011, the Eskenazis contributed $40 million toward a new hospital in Indianapolis to replace the aging Wishard Hospital. The health care system, which was renamed Eskenazi Health, serves some of the most vulnerable residents of Marion County. The IU School of Medicine is a close partner of Eskenazi Health, with faculty members providing care to its patients, and IU medical students, residents, and fellows receiving critical training there.

"Sid and Lois Eskenazi have been extraordinarily generous and philanthropic, even before cancer affected them on a personal level," Dr. Einhorn said. "They have the spirit of philanthropy, which is a learned trait – it is nothing you are born with. One of the exceptional things about Sid and Lois is they have paid that forward to their children. David, Dori, and Sandy have been remarkably generous in their own ways, and this is because of their parents and the upbringing they had."

This gift counts toward the $2.5 billion campaign, For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign.

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