Ginny L. Clements, a breast cancer survivor and an avid supporter of University of Arizona initiatives, has donated $8.5 million to help develop a breast cancer research institute. Clements’ gift to the UA Cancer Center was made approaching the 65th anniversary of when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 15.
“My aspirations are that, through research here at the University of Arizona, other people will not have to go through what I did as a young girl,” Clements said in an interview with the University of Arizona Foundation.
According to Dr. Joann Sweasy, the director of the UA Cancer Center, the plans for the $8.5 million include recruiting a director who is an eminent clinician scientist in breast cancer research, and two renowned professors whose lives’ work is breast cancer research. Additional funds will go toward startup packages, renovation of laboratory space and research.
To jumpstart these plans, the UA Cancer Center is looking to build an external advisory board made up of breast cancer researchers throughout the U.S., which could both provide advice and help with recruiting scientists and professors.
The institute, which will be called the Ginny L. Clements Breast Cancer Research Institute, is an addition to UA’s dedication to breast cancer work.
“We have an amazing clinical research team here and lots of capabilities, we’ve run lots of clinical trials, as a matter of fact, the breast cancer research team, led by Dr. Chalasani is the highest recruiting clinical research team at the University,” Sweasy said.
Sweasy explained that the vision for the institute is to pull together some of the best researchers and have them work together in a “team science” effort, toward the goal of eliminating breast cancer.
“We’d like them to have expertise in breast cancer research, but in different areas,” Sweasy said. “If we bring experts in who are dedicated to eradicating and preventing breast cancer, but from different perspectives, that team science approach can grow something amazing that none of those individuals would have thought of on their own.”
Clements’ contributions to the university have gone beyond financial assistance. Since moving to Tucson in 1974, she has worked with the National Leadership Council, the President’s Club, Old Main Society and the UA Foundation Board of Trustees. She also started the Ginny L. Clements Academic Center, which was opened in 2016. This facility provides psychological, clinical, academic and development services for student athletes.
Clements’ commitment to providing assistance for UA breast cancer research began in 2006, when she created the Ginny L. Clements Breast Cancer Research Fund. This marked the 50th anniversary of her breast cancer diagnosis.
In addition to her own struggles with cancer, Clements’ husband, Bill Clements, died of lung cancer in 1995. In her interview with the University of Arizona Foundation, Clements recalled some of her husband’s words which helped inspire her to assist others diagnosed with cancer.
“As my late husband told us and our family, ‘as long as we have enough to live on, the way we want to live, we have to help others who maybe aren’t as fortunate as we have been’,” Clements said.
Quinn McVeigh is a University of Arizona journalism student and Tucson Local Media intern.