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$250,000 gift helped start hospital genetic counseling, testing program

New Britain [February 05 2010] - An educator for 35 years, Bruce Rudolph taught many subjects, including math, science, English, and probably a bit about life, to countless 5th, 6th and 7th graders in the Wallingford school system.

His wife, Katherine, also a long-time teacher, specialized in helping children with learning disabilities at Thomas Hooker Elementary School in Meriden. Altruistic in nature, Katherine liked doing things for people, Rudolph recalls, having coordinated school activities like Student Council and talent shows.
Her penchant for giving and their passion for teaching are weaved together in a gift to The Hospital of Central Connecticut (HCC) that will both educate and ideally help save lives from diseases like ovarian cancer, from which Katherine died in 2007 at age 54.

With a lead gift of $250,000 from Bruce Rudolph in 2008 in memory of his wife, the Katherine Ann King Rudolph Hereditary Cancer Genetics Program aims to identify adult patients at increased risk for cancer due to their genetic makeup, and empower them, through counseling, to make decisions regarding possible treatment.

Led by HCC, the program is part of a regional genetic counseling and testing program begun in October that includes Hartford Hospital and St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center. The fund, which includes a state grant and has a $1 million goal, will help provide access to genetic counseling for patients in central Connecticut and greater Hartford.

Patients with a history of two or more cancers breast, ovarian or colon, or a family history strong in certain cancers are potential candidates for counseling and gene (blood) testing.

“Information is empowering, it seems to me,” says Rudolph, who notes the importance in coupling counseling with genetic testing. “Counseling and genetic testing seem, absent a test for certain cancers, to be the best way to proceed in breaking the mystery of breast, ovarian or colon cancer.”

Rudolph views the lead gift as an extension of his wife’s personality. “She was a very purposeful person and much of what she spent her time doing had somebody else’s benefit in mind,” he says. “This program continues her willingness to help other people and will, hopefully, continue in perpetuity.”

This gift follows one by the Rudolphs in late 2006 when they established the James S. Hoffman, M.D., Gynecologic Oncology Fund to provide financial support for the Obstetrics and Gynecology – Gynecologic Oncology program not funded through the hospital’s annual operating budget. This may include funding for research, patient treatment programs, physician and staff education and patient education.

The first gift was made while Katherine was in treatment, following her August 2005 cancer diagnosis. Previously bothered by periodic bloating and other abdominal discomforts, she felt something hard in her abdomen during a trip to Florida, recalls Rudolph. After tests suggested ovarian cancer, Katherine’s gynecologist sent her to James Hoffman, M.D., director of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at HCC’s George Bray Cancer Center. Ovarian cancer was confirmed after Hoffman surgically removed a tumor.

Rudolph recalls that Hoffman remained hopeful and encouraged Katherine, who had begun chemotherapy, to enroll in clinical treatment trials. Ultimately, she took part in four trials, experiencing periods of cancer remission with each trial.

Having recuperated from surgery, Katherine returned to work full-time in January 2006, assuming an administrative position at Thomas Hooker, where she remained, while in treatment, through May 2007.

“She was an extremely strong person and it really showed in what she went through,” says Rudolph. “We were here (HCC) many times,” including about five times on an emergency basis, he recalls. “There wasn’t a time we came here the hospital wasn’t completely prepared.”

Rudolph is grateful to Dr. Hoffman and HCC staff, including President and Chief Executive Officer Laurence A. Tanner for his wife’s care. “We are very grateful to Mr. Rudolph for his generosity and for his insight into the creation of a program which will help many families for a long time to come,” says Hoffman.
“The gift is going where I think Katherine would want it to go,” says Rudolph. “It’s Dr. Hoffman’s footprints that put the program together.”

For more information about the genetics program, please contact genetic counselor Linda Steinmark, B.A., M.S., at (860) 224-5900 x6630 or visit www.thocc.org/services/cancer. For information about donating to either the Katherine A. & Bruce A. Rudolph Hereditary Cancer Genetics Fund or the James S. Hoffman, M.D., Gynecologic Oncology Fund, please call the Development Office at 860-224-5567 or go online to www.thocc.org/giving/.

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