Dr. Jacques Lipson was an attending an internal medicine physician at Genesee and Rochester General Hospitals for many years.
But after a routine chest x-ray, in preparation for hernia surgery, revealed what would later be diagnosed as lung cancer, the doctor quickly became the patient and surgery was scheduled to remove part of his lung.
"The day of the surgery is burned in my memory," Dawn Lipson said. "When I saw the surgeon walking toward me two hours sooner than anticipated I knew the situation was not good. Jacques' cancer had spread; surgery would not help."
But Jacques and Dawn weren't giving up - on themselves or on the progress for all cancer patients.
“While Jacques was still under anesthesia, I researched and talked with experts to figure out a path forward,” Dawn said, adding that their surgeon put it best. “We had nothing to lose so if it were him, he would go in with both guns blazing. That is exactly what we did. Bouts of chemotherapy and radiation therapy followed. We were lucky and Jacques’ cancer went into remission.”
They couldn’t thank the medical staff at Rochester General Hospital enough, but Dawn had noticed that patients’ families were often waiting in hallways and sitting on folding chairs. Those surroundings mattered to her and to all who were facing a medical crisis with a loved one.
After treatment, Jacques returned to caring for his patients. While making rounds, he was stopped by the chief of medicine who asked Jacques if he knew anyone who might be willing to donate money to spruce up the hallway and perhaps get new chairs.
“Jacques came home and told me about the strange request that he had received,” Dawn said. “After I finished laughing, I explained to him he had been asked for a donation. At this point we had some serious discussions. We decided this was an opportunity that we needed to seize and explore.”
The Lipsons decided to create a center where cancer and blood disorders could continue to be treated by a superior medical team in an atmosphere of care, compassion and comfort.
“We decided the center needed to put the patient at the center of everything they did,” Dawn added.
For months, the Lipsons recruited friends, met with administrators, acquired space and worked to create the Dawn and Jacques Lipson M.D. Cancer and Blood Disorder Institute.
“No one ever makes this journey alone,” Dawn said. “One by one the team grew. Friends, donors, staff, volunteers, medical practitioners – everyone joined in a common goal.”
And eventually, the idea became a reality.
“That reality now has an army of wonderful medical teams, amazing volunteers, caring and compassionate staff, and generous donors,” Dawn said, “and now that large team fans the sparks of hopes and dreams that fuel the triumph of the indomitable human spirit throughout the Rochester region.”