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Building Excellence

Coggins' Gift Bolsters Children's Cancer, Blood Disorders Renovation

Above: Jordan Carroll of Liberty, a Children's of Mississippi patient, and his mother, Retasia, read during his treatment in the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders infusion room. Below: Pat and Jim Coggin of Jackson started the fund to renovate the Children's of Mississippi Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders with a $1.5 million gift.

A more accommodating space for patients and their families will be coming to the Children’s of Mississippi Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders along with additional exam rooms and pharmacy upgrades.

“This much-needed renovation will add space needed for the care of the state’s pediatric cancer patients and will make the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders a more comfortable place for our families,” said Dr. Anderson Collier, director of the center and chief of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

The $2.5 million project will be fueled by a fund started with a $1.5 million donation from Jim and Pat Coggin of Jackson.

“We were looking for a way to give to our community,” Jim Coggin said, “and when we were presented with this opportunity, it just felt like the right thing to do.”

Collier said the gift will help children coping with cancer or blood disorders such as sickle cell disease now and for years to come.

“We are grateful for the support of the Coggin family,” Collier said. “Their gift and the fund it started will improve the care and the experience of our patients and their families at a time when they need it most.”

Dr. Mary Taylor, Suzan B. Thames Chair, professor and chair of Pediatrics, said the updates to the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders will improve the patient experience for thousands of children and will closely mirror the improvements offered at the newly opened Sanderson Tower at Children’s of Mississippi.

“The Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders is the state’s only center for the treatment of pediatric cancer and blood disorders in Mississippi, so we have children from throughout the state who come here for treatment and follow-up care,” she said. “This gift will make a huge difference for children and families.”

The Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders includes one of the largest pediatric clinics for sickle cell disease in the country as well as care for other disorders including iron deficiency anemia, and disorders involving platelets, clotting or bleeding disorders.

Children’s of Mississippi is the Medical Center’s pediatric arm that includes Mississippi’s only children’s hospital as well as specialty clinics throughout the state.

The plan includes expansion of the infusion room where children receive chemotherapy and blood transfusions to allow for social distancing and to make space for semi-private areas. Currently, eight patients at a time can receive treatment there, with social distancing, and the room offers no privacy for families.

Additional clinic rooms would allow for additional hematologists and oncologists to see patients and for multidisciplinary clinics.

Also in the plans are pharmacy upgrades, allowing for an on-site pharmacist and for additional clinical trials, and an administrative space for faculty and staff, which will enhance collaboration among providers, professors, students, residents and fellows.

The Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders was opened in 1991 as the Children’s Cancer Clinic at UMMC, with the Junior League of Jackson providing the funding for its construction.

Located next to the Center is the Kathy and Joe Sanderson Tower, which opened to patients Nov. 2. The new seven-story children’s hospital tower includes private neonatal and pediatric intensive care rooms, a pediatric imaging center, a dozen advanced surgical suites and an outpatient specialty clinic.

“There is such a difference between what is state-of-the-art today and 28 years ago,” Jim Coggin said. “The Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders provides wonderful care, but their facility needs an update.”

The Coggins, who have an adult son and two grandchildren, lost a daughter, Allison Coggin Lee, to melanoma at age 33.

“Spending time with her during treatment gave us an understanding of patient families’ needs,” Pat Coggin said.

“Cancer patients and their families face a difficult situation, but it can be made easier when they’re situated in an environment that’s comfortable, up to date, and spirit lifting.”

An increase in the number of patients keeps the current infusion space full most days. These patients range from young children to teenagers.

“It’s hard for a 13-year-old to share treatment space with a 3-year-old,” Jim Coggin said. “Ideally, patients will have their own area during procedures and infusions in an environment that blends into the Sanderson Tower, which we consider the standard to meet aesthetically.”

Jim Coggin, who retired as president and chief administrative officer of Saks, Inc., formerly Proffitt’s and McRae’s, became more familiar with the Medical Center and its mission through friendship with Dr. James Keeton, professor emeritus and former UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

“Touring the Sanderson Tower and then the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders and seeing the children and their families there inspired them to make this generous gift,” Keeton said.

The Coggins said they see the start of the fund as a way of rallying Mississippians to the cause of advancing the care of children with cancer or blood disorders.

“By giving to help the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, we can help children and also encourage others to support this cause,” Jim Coggin said.

Word of the family’s gift is spreading, as other gifts have already been made toward the project.

To learn more about the fund for the Children’s of Mississippi Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders or to donate, visit the Center’s webpage for giving.

To support the University of Mississippi Medical Center, visit http://www.umc.edu/givenow/ or contact Meredith Aldridge, executive director of development, at 601-815-7469 or [email protected].

By Annie Oeth/UMMC Public Affairs