A new, six-year, $11.5 billion strategic plan was recently announced for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The size and scope of its goals are extraordinary and will launch the research and treatment of catastrophic pediatric diseases to new heights, allowing us to reach our arms further around the world than ever before.
Among the plan’s aims: unlock the secrets of several difficult-to-treat pediatric cancers that most often are fatal, notably brain cancer; increase the number of patients on St. Jude-led protocols by as much as 30 percent; build on the already audacious goals of St. Jude Global by tripling the investment by committing more than $470 million over six years; and earmarking more than $1.9 billion for capital spending on campus-wide construction and renovation projects.
It’s an inspiring vision set on course more than 60 years ago by Danny Thomas, a visionary and innovator with a bold imagination.
Danny’s dream was extraordinary in its impact, yet elegant in its simplicity: No child should die in the dawn of life. The means to that end, however, is anything but simple as we see in the complex road map drawn for the next six years. So we measure it a milestone at a time. A birthday. First steps. First bike ride. Driver’s license. And at this time of year, especially — graduation.
At St. Jude, we revere the opportunity for education. It’s why the St. Jude School Program by Chili’s is so crucial. It allows patients to keep up with their peers as they go through treatment. And it allows a sense of normalcy to infuse days of chemotherapy, physical therapy and doctors’ visits.
Every year at this time, we come together to celebrate those kindergartners and high school students as they graduate. This year is different, as was the last due to COVID-19 safety protocols, and though we can’t meet in person, we’re celebrating these determined, courageous kids.
Sixty years ago, these patients wouldn’t have had the chance to study, much less graduate and dream of a career. The increased survival rate — 20 percent overall when St. Jude opened to more than 80 percent today — is a big part of that. Equally as important is the quality of life during and after treatment.
Improved quality of life is another goal of the St. Jude strategic plan. Through St. Jude LIFE Study, data from 5,000 childhood cancer survivors has been used to develop less-toxic treatments with fewer long-lasting side effects. These programs will be part of a $3.7 billion investment expanding cancer-focused research and related clinical care.
As quality of life improves, so does kids’ development, allowing a fighting chance when it comes not just to surviving, but to fully living, playing and learning.
This is why a mortarboard and gown mean so much to all of us invested in the St. Jude mission, from fundraisers to doctors and nurses, to all of you, our supporters whose hearts and souls are held by our patients as tightly as their diplomas.