by Max Brantley
Kristen and Cliff Lee (he's the major league pitcher who lives in Little Rock) have given $1 million to Arkansas Children's Hospital to endow a chair in pediatric hematology/oncology. Their 9-year-old son Jaxon received treatment for cancer at Children's as an infant. The chair will honor Jaxon's physician, Dr. Robert Saylors, shown here with the Lee family, including their daughter Maci Lee.
Today, Kristen and Cliff Lee announced a $1 million donation to Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH). The gift, which will fund an endowed chair in pediatric hematology/oncology, was given in honor of their 9-year-old son Jaxon, who battled cancer at ACH as an infant.
The endowed chair will also honor Jaxon’s ACH physician, Dr. Robert Saylors. The $1 million donation will create the Jaxon C. Lee — Robert L. Saylors III, MD Endowed Chair in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology.
In 2001, when Jaxon was 4 months old, he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a cancer that starts inside the bone marrow. He received treatment at ACH, spending four months undergoing chemotherapy, which did not fully eradicate the cancer. When he was 10 months old, the Lee family traveled to San Antonio, where 10-month-old Jaxon received a bone marrow transplant. Dr. Saylors oversaw every aspect of Jaxon’s treatment. Now Jaxon is healthy and cancer-free. He continues to visit ACH for follow-up care once a year.
“Under the guidance of Dr. Saylors, Jaxon’s experience at Arkansas Children’s Hospital was fantastic,” says Kristen. “We wanted to do something in honor of our son and in celebration of the man who saved his life. Dr. Saylors has given his life to doing research and helping kids, and we knew we wanted to do something to honor him that would last forever.”
Through an endowed chair, the full amount of the donation is set aside permanently with a portion of the earnings dedicated to the support of the chair holder. In addition to being honored by the chair, Dr. Saylors will also be the inaugural chair holder. With this endowed chair, Dr. Saylors can designate the funds toward research, clinical support or education advancing the care of hematology/oncology patients at ACH.
“We are very grateful to the Lees for providing this extraordinary and most generous gift,” says Dr. Jonathan Bates, president and CEO of ACH. “An endowed chair is one of the highest academic honors for the holder and assists ACH in attracting and retaining the highest quality physicians.”
Dr. Saylors has been a pediatric oncologist at ACH since 1993 and is an associate professor in the department of pediatrics at UAMS.
“I am both honored and humbled to receive this gift from Kristen and Cliff,” he says. “Unfortunately, there are still far too many children who do not win their battles with cancer and serious blood diseases. The resources provided by this wonderful gift will enable us to intensify our efforts to achieve our goal of curing all of the children who come to us for care.”
With this gift, the Lee family is making a difference for the more than 3,000 patients who receive care in the ACH hematology/oncology department each year. The hospital treats more than 90 percent of Arkansas children diagnosed with cancer, sickle cell disease, hemophilia and other diseases of the blood.
“For us, it was a no-brainer,” says Cliff. “We thank God every day that our son is alive and healthy. We wanted to do anything we could to honor Dr. Saylors and help patients like Jaxon fight cancer.”