For the second time in recent years, Ochsner Medical Center has received a $20 million donation from Tom and Gayle Benson for cancer treatment and research.
The original donation helped to build the Gayle and Tom Benson Cancer Center, which opened in 2010 on Ochsner’s main Jefferson Highway campus.
The new gift by the Saints and Pelicans owner and his wife, announced Tuesday, will fund expansions to oncology clinics on five floors, including the addition of more than 50 personal and semiprivate chemotherapy infusion stations. The donation also will help launch a clinical research program that will conduct trials on new anti-cancer drugs, agents and treatments.
“Every day, patients walk into this facility looking for innovative treatment options and high-quality care that will impact both (them) and their families for the rest of their lives,” Ochsner President and CEO Warner Thomas said. “This transformational gift ... will greatly increase our capacity to provide patients across the state and beyond with the best possible cancer treatment.”
Officials said the facility has treated patients from eight states and seven countries while posting five-year survival rates for prostate, lung, colon and breast cancer that exceed the national average. Louisiana, however, continues to rank high in overall cancer death rates, officials said.
“When we first opened the cancer center, we knew that our partnership with Ochsner would allow us to help so many people in our region,” the 88-year-old Benson, who has lost several close relatives to cancer, said in a statement. “There is much more work to be done as the number of new cases continues to grow each year, (and) this gift will help ensure that we can offer the best services possible to our residents of Louisiana and the Gulf South.”
Meanwhile, attorneys for Benson were in New Orleans’ federal courthouse Tuesday for a hearing pertaining to a lawsuit he filed against the trustees overseeing trust funds benefiting the daughter and grandchildren he cut out of his succession plans earlier this year.
Benson has asked a federal judge to let him remove non-controlling shares in his sports teams from the trusts in exchange for a half-billion dollars in secured promissory notes, but the trustees have argued that the request should be dismissed because it is not a fair trade, as required by law.
Judge Jane Triche Milazzo listened to arguments for and against dismissing Benson’s lawsuit ahead of a trial scheduled for next year, but she indicated she would not render a decision until later.
Tuesday’s hearing did not involve a pending appeal to a Civil District Court judge’s ruling that Benson is mentally competent to handle his succession plans as he sees fit, nor did it deal with an ongoing dispute over control of a family trust fund in Texas.