Rhode Island Hospital

Philanthropy News from Rhode Island Hospital

Staff, Donors Continue to ‘Dazzle and Delight’

Jill Currie is Manager of the Anne C. Pappas Center for Breast Imaging at Rhode Island Hospital. A critical component of her team’s work is performing mammograms. While potentially lifesaving, mammograms can also be uncomfortable for some women. So, Jill is always searching for ways to improve the experience. Her most recent idea was a simple one: get a new chair.

REAL Mammography Chair

The one they were using, she says, was similar to a barber’s chair and did not lock in place. As a result, patients with mobility or other issues often required a second staff member to assist with their seating and positioning and they still may not have enjoyed optimal comfort.

Jill’s research led her to the REAL Mammography Chair. “It is very easy to move, glides in all directions, and has a remote for adjusting height and tilt,” she explains. “The chair is balanced and easily locks in place. So, it’s very stable, no tipping or sliding out of place.”

These elements not only increase patients’ safety, comfort, and ease of access, Jill says, “but versatile components like the seat tilt enable us to position patients in a way that allows us to get more complete imaging of breast tissue.” Improved ergonomics for both the patient and the technologist performing the exam is another benefit, Jill adds.

Small grants. Big impact.

With a replacement identified, Jill now had to and a way to pay for it—because it wasn’t in any budget.

Fortunately, Rhode Island and Hasbro Children’s hospitals launched its “Dazzle and Delight” microgrants program last year to fund such projects.

“The program is wonderful because it enables staff to think outside the box when it comes to enhancing patient comfort and experience,” Jill explains, “and it allows them to submit requests for equipment there isn’t capital allocated for.”

Nearly 100 projects were submitted in 2022, with more than half receiving funding, generally in the $500 to $2,500 range. “We’re not talking about big dollars,” says Laura Roberts, Director of Strategic Projects, and Program Facilitator. “Rather, these are smaller initiatives that promote caring, convenience, or patient-centeredness, yet are sometimes overlooked in favor of bigger priorities.”

Increasing the availability of Spanish-language discharge instructions, providing cool gel gloves to low-income patients experiencing chemotherapy-induced neuropathy, and giving welcome presents to babies affected by cleft palate and craniosynostosis are just a few other examples of funded projects.

Three ‘chairs’ for philanthropy!

In Jill’s case, the cost of the chair was higher than the program’s maximum allotment. But Paul Busby, a retired Walmart executive and current hospital Foundation Board member, funded the difference and has committed to paying for at least two more chairs.

A member of the “Dazzle and Delight” grant review team, Paul felt a personal connection to the project, as his wife has had scares with breast cancer. “It was a no-brainer to me,” he says. “We’ve been very blessed, and I think it’s important to pay it forward.”

magic mushrooms

Grant-Funded Research

Using ‘Magic Mushrooms’ For OCD Treatment.

“Magic mushrooms” are currently one of the hottest subjects in psychiatric research. Soon this cutting-edge research will also be conducted at Rhode Island Hospital.

Lifespan Cancer Institute to Grow Research and Training Programs with Papitto Opportunity Connection Support

Safran Speaking


Transformational grant will launch effort to train high school students of color for careers in cancer medicine.

The Lifespan Cancer Institute at Rhode Island Hospital has received a $10 million commitment from the Papitto Opportunity Connection (POC) to expand cancer care, research, and education in Rhode Island.

With the goal to build the next generation of cancer physicians and researchers reflective of the communities it serves, the Lifespan Cancer Institute will use these funds to launch the Future Gen Cancer Scholars program. The first-of-its-kind mentoring program will specifically target high school students of color in the communities of Central Falls, Pawtucket, and Providence. It stands to also address the lack of physicians of color in a state with strong populations of Black and Hispanic residents.

The program will enroll up to twenty students of color annually who are nominated by their high schools and selected through an application process. Beginning at the conclusion of their sophomore year, the students will participate in a six-week program across two successive summers, shadowing some of the nation’s top cancer doctors and scientists at Rhode Island, The Miriam, and Hasbro Children’s hospitals. Scholars will also have access to state-of-the-art laboratories at the Lifespan Cancer Institute and the Cancer Center at Brown University, where cancer research space will become a classroom.



POC’s community investment will also provide funding to enhance cancer research at Lifespan’s Coro building. The addition of new research technologies positions Lifespan scientists to expand the understanding and treatment of cancers such as brain tumors and hematologic malignancies, while being central to the ability to recruit the best and brightest to Rhode Island.

News of this transformational gift – the second $10 million commitment to Lifespan from the POC since 2021 – was shared publicly during a Dec. 15 news conference held at Shea High School in Pawtucket, one of the schools that will participate in the Future Gen program.

Next Gen Team

$1M Gift Benefits Neurology Care at Rhode Island Hospital

Neurology Gift
Cristina Watkins, MSN, NP; Mahesh V. Jayaraman, MD and Kristen Czekanski, NP

When you combine the vision and purpose of forward-thinking health care professionals with the incredible generosity of caring philanthropists, the results can be powerful.

The recently created Helen D. Buchanan Family Fellowship—an experiential learning opportunity for advanced practice providers (APP) in the neurosciences field—is a shining example of that partnership in action.

‘How do we create awareness?’

Cristina Watkins is a nurse practitioner at Rhode Island Hospital with a not-so-common clinical subspecialty in neurology. “I think I was the only one of my graduating class of NPs who went into neurology,” she says, adding with a laugh, “I think some people think it’s scary.”

Over the last five years, Cristina has been a member of the hospital’s neurovascular team and knows firsthand how critically important the contributions of APPs have been, particularly in the delivery of stroke and neurocritical care.

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Driving Change in How Alzheimer's Disease is Diagnosed

Director shares insights on treatment, research, and the center’s goals

Chung-Ku Wu, MD

Dr. Chuang-Kuo “John” Wu is a neurology clinician and researcher who has held prestigious appointments throughout the country. In September 2020, he was recruited to return to Rhode Island Hospital to serve as Director of the Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center.

You returned to Rhode Island to lead the Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center, what is your history in the field and what attracted you to come back to the Ocean State?

My time working in Rhode Island Hospital’s neurology department alongside renowned researcher Dr. Brian Ott was incredibly rewarding. I am particularly proud of the services we expanded and the many National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded research and clinical trials we worked on. In 2007, I was recruited to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, and later to the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center to head its neurology residency program. My specialties and research interests center on slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and various types of dementia. Coming back here was an easy decision—it allows me to continue Dr. Ott’s legacy following his retirement. Rhode Island is a unique place to study Alzheimer’s disease. Its population and aging demographic represents a model system that reflects a cross-section of the entire country.

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Grant News from Rhode Island Hospital

The Rhode Island Foundation’s Special Medical Fund grant program awarded a grant of $21,899 to support the “Digital Memory Screening – Expanded Accessibility Project.” As a prevention and treatment effort, the importance of early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia cannot be overstated. Through this initiative, we will employ integrated technology to expand accessibility of digital memory screening to meet the needs of aging Rhode Islanders.