From Patient to Patron: Lymphoma Survivor Pays It Forward
February 9, 2017 | by Michael Easterling
Cancer survivor Deana Campbell vividly remembers her first day at City of Hope eight years ago – and the moment she knew she was going to be OK after receiving the devastating news that she had lymphoma.
“I pulled up to valet parking on campus and the first face I saw was Alexandra Levine’s,” she said.
Alexandra Levine, M.D., M.A.C.P., served for nearly a decade as City of Hope’s chief medical officer and as the Dr. Norman and Melinda Payson Professor in Medicine. Campbell’s brother-in-law, Allan Abbott, M.D., a former colleague of Levine's from her tenure at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, had referred her.
“She walked over and embraced me with such a big hug,” said Campbell, who lost her father to lymphoma seven years prior to her own diagnosis. “I can’t say I wasn’t afraid of my diagnosis at that point, but somehow I knew I would be healed with Dr. Levine’s help. I was in the arms of someone who made me feel safe, was wildly compassionate and kept telling me this is our fight, not my fight.”
Campbell received five months of chemotherapy and her cancer went into remission. Two-and-a-half years later, her lymphoma returned and she underwent a revolutionary procedure using modified HIV to kill her lymphoma cells. It worked, and today Campbell is cancer-free. Throughout her experience, she said, Levine was a constant presence.
“Dr. Levine is legendary for her compassionate care and always putting the patient first,” said Stephen J. Forman, M.D., who oversaw the unconventional clinical trial that saved Campbell’s life. “Her dedication is perfectly aligned with our mission.” Forman is the Francis & Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation and an international expert in leukemia, lymphoma and bone marrow transplantation.
Campbell and her husband, Steve, wanted to publicly and philanthropically acknowledge that legacy of caring, and to honor someone who has become a dear family friend. On the occasion of Levine’s retirement, the Campbell family – Deana, Steve and their children, Sterling and Chynna – made a generous donation to City of Hope to establish The Deana and Steve Campbell Chief Clinical Officer’s Distinguished Chair in Honor of Alexandra Levine, M.D. The holder of the endowed chair, yet to be recruited, will demonstrate the same level of commitment to City of Hope’s values, ideals and philosophy as Levine has personified.
“This chair does more than recognize Dr. Levine’s leadership and dedication to the mission of City of Hope,” said President and Chief Executive Officer Robert W. Stone. “It’s about continuing an enduring legacy of caring for patients. It’s about inspiring those who come after us to always embrace and embody our credo – a credo modeled so beautifully by Alexandra Levine: ‘There is no profit in curing the body if, in the process, we destroy the soul.’”
The announcement of the chair was a surprise to Levine, and a touching tribute, she said, as she begins the next chapter in her life.
“This is deeply meaningful and I cannot tell you how happy this makes me,” she said. “The Campbells are now a part of the amazing work that City of Hope does, in a very official way. Their generosity and beauty as a family is something I will never forget. I am so grateful.”
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