Fulfilling the mission of Danny Thomas

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Danny Thomas gets a hug from a St. Jude patient.Danny Thomas with fellow comedian Jack Benny and the architectural drawing of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Danny Thomas gets a hug from a St. Jude patient.

"St. Jude was built for children who are really sick—children who are catastrophically ill. I like to think that St. Jude is what democracy is all about—caring for each other regardless of race or creed and not thinking of ability to pay."

St. Jude opened its doors during a turbulent time in U.S. history, with Memphis at the center of the Civil Rights movement. Because of Danny Thomas' leadership, St. Jude was the first fully integrated children's hospital in the South. African-American personnel were hired as doctors, researchers and nurses, delivering world-class care to the hospital's first patients. During the 1960s, St. Jude also played a key role in the integration of hotels in Memphis, requiring facilities that provided accommodations for St. Jude families to offer equal housing and dining arrangements to all patient families, regardless of race. Today the hospital, an Equal Opportunity Employer, continues to provide care to families from all 50 states and more than 70 countries. And, just as in 1962, no family ever pays St. Jude for that care.

"We see the kids that survived from 1962 to 1967, and they are not kids any more. They're adults and living a good life, some with children of their own. If we'd done nothing more than that, it would have been worth it."

Treatment advances in recent decades mean that the ranks of childhood cancer survivors have swelled to more than 366,000 individuals nationwide. As the population of childhood cancer survivors has grown, St. Jude has pioneered programs to identify the long-term impact of treatment and to provide supportive care for survivors. Those efforts include the After Completion of Therapy Clinic, the Childhood Cancer Survivors Study and the St. Jude LIFE study, one of the most ambitious studies yet of the long-term impact of childhood cancer and its treatment. The St. Jude LIFE study aims to describe the occurrence and timing of selected late effects as survivors age, as well as to identify treatment, genetic, demographic, behavioral and psychosocial related predictors. Now, thanks to St. Jude, former patients not just survive but thrive.

"A dream is one thing. A realization is something entirely separate. I publicly thank you, wherever you may be, for the support of this dream."

Fifty years after Danny Thomas uttered these words, the hospital continues to pursue his quest, charting new frontiers of discovery and innovation. Looking toward the future, the hospital is positioned as a national resource with a global mission. St. Jude will continue to strengthen its capabilities for treatment and research and to intensify its drug-discovery enterprise. Results from one of the hospital's latest efforts—the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital – Washington University Pediatric Cancer Genome Project—hold potential for improving the diagnosis and treatment of childhood cancers. Scientists are searching the vast landscape of the human genome for the mutations that drive the malignancies of childhood cancer. Data gained from this project will create the foundation of knowledge that will deliver childhood cancer treatments and discoveries for the coming decades.

"Someday, God willing, we are going to beat all the odds and make childhood cancer a thing of the past."

At St. Jude, scientists and clinicians collaborate daily to answer research questions and conduct clinical investigations. By speeding the translation of basic research findings into clinical tools, the hospital cures increasing numbers of children worldwide. Although cancer remains the leading cause of death from disease among U.S. children over 1 year of age, St. Jude researchers are making dramatic progress in the understanding and treatment of cancer. These discoveries are leading to further improvements in diagnosis and treatment. In fact, the hospital's current Strategic Plan includes a goal to push the collective cure rates for childhood cancer to 90 percent in the next decade.


Although Danny Thomas is gone, his words still ring true, guiding the leaders and staff of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as they work to fulfill his dream.


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