Vala family, Memorial Health gift $2M to create endowment at SIU
Local business owners and philanthropists Frank and Linda Vala have established an endowed chair to support research and training in urology at SIU School of Medicine.
Memorial Health matched the Valas’ $1 million personal donation in October through the Springfield Memorial Foundation to create The Frank and Linda Vala Endowed Chair of Urology.
The inaugural honoree is Dr. Bradley Schwartz, professor and chair of urology at SIU School of Medicine and director of the Center for Urologic Minimally Invasive Surgery and Endourology. Schwartz received the award at a ceremony on June 29 at the Memorial Learning Center on the campus of Springfield Memorial Hospital.
Frank Vala credits the doctor and his clinical team with saving his life.
“Our intentions with this gift are, first, to support the lifesaving work being done by Dr. Schwartz and his colleagues at SIU School of Medicine; and second, to raise awareness in the community of the high quality care available here,” said Frank Vala. “Too often, people believe they must travel elsewhere to receive treatment for serious illness. I’m here to say, those services, treatments and doctors you think are only available in larger cities, are available to you right here in Springfield.”
Schwartz specializes in minimally invasive surgery for kidney cancer, laparoscopy, robotics and stone disease.
“An endowed chair is one of the highest academic honors in medicine, and it is also a lasting tribute to mission partners like the Vala family,” said Dr. Jerry Kruse, dean and provost of SIU School of Medicine and CEO of SIU Medicine. “With the support of The Frank and Linda Vala Endowed Chair of Urology, Dr. Schwartz will continue his internationally recognized achievements in research, education and patient care."
Schwartz has received numerous regional and national awards for research, education and scientific presentations. He has authored more than 100 original publications and has presented more than 500 scientific papers at national and international meetings. He holds two patents for medical devices.
As an instructor, Schwartz has led more than 200 surgical simulation and skills lab courses nationally and internationally and has served as a mentor to thousands of medical students, residents and urologists in various minimally invasive surgical techniques.
“This endowment established by the Valas, who are both lifelong contributors to this community, is a gift with the potential to help millions of people for generations to come,” said Schwartz. “In the face of such generosity, words fail. To say I am humbled to be selected the inaugural honoree of the Valas’ endowment is not enough. My gratitude will be reflected in the research the gift will facilitate.”