As ardent supporters of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and UHealth – University of Miami Health System, noted philanthropists Janet and Mark Levy host numerous fundraising galas and social events in Palm Beach to raise awareness about the groundbreaking research and world-class health care readily available so close to home. The most recent was An Evening with Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center Leaders and Innovators, held January 11 at The Colony Hotel.
During this gathering of the Levys’ guests, along with Sylvester leadership and faculty, the benevolent couple was recognized for their recent $1 million gift to support innovative research in cancer and neurology. In their honor, the patient reception area in the UHealth Concierge Medicine Clinic in Palm Beach has been named The Janet and Mark Levy Patient Reception Suite.
The Levys’ generous gift includes $500,000 to Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center to create The Janet and Mark Levy Fund for Precision Oncology Research and Innovation. It will support advancements in precision oncology, including but not limited to research, technology, patient education, awareness, and communications, positively impacting patients in Palm Beach and throughout South Florida.
Supporting Sylvester’s Progress
Janet Levy was first introduced to Sylvester about 10 years ago through her good friend Jayne Malfitano, who serves as vice chair of the Sylvester Board of Governors and whose father the cancer center was named after. It was through that connection that Levy had the privilege of meeting Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., director of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.
She says she was immediately impressed, not only with Dr. Nimer’s credentials but with the groundbreaking research taking place at Sylvester and the strides the cancer center was making to earn designation by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), an accomplishment it achieved in 2019. Sylvester is the only NCI-designated cancer center in South Florida, and one of only two in the state and 71 in the country. NCI designation is bestowed upon the nation’s top cancer centers in recognition of their innovative research and leading-edge treatments.
“Under Dr. Nimer’s tutelage, Sylvester scientists are fighting the most challenging and deadly cancers, such as brain tumors and pancreatic tumors. Funding for this type of research is not always readily available, which is why Sylvester depends upon philanthropy,” said Levy during her welcome address at the event. She encouraged guests to join her and her husband’s efforts to support Sylvester, directing attention to the Transformational Cancer Research Building, slated to open in 2024, which will serve as a hub for cancer research and innovation.
Calling the couple true philanthropic leaders, Dr. Nimer recognized the Levys for their ongoing efforts to help Sylvester advance excellence in research and cancer care.
“We will be forever grateful to Janet and Mark for their vision and generosity. They recognized the potential Sylvester had to change the face of cancer care for South Floridians long before we received our NCI designation,” said Dr. Nimer, who is also the Oscar de la Renta Endowed Chair in Cancer Research and executive dean for research at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
“Through the years, they have been ardent supporters of both Sylvester and UHealth, helping us expand our depth of services into the Palm Beach region. Their $500,000 gift to establish The Janet and Mark Levy Fund for Precision Oncology will propel our scientists and clinicians to make giant leaps in cancer research and care,” Dr. Nimer said.
The Janet and Mark Levy Neurology Fund
The Miller School’s Department of Neurology will also benefit from the Levy’s generosity. The Janet and Mark Levy Neurology Fund supports leading-edge research on neurological disorders, including stroke, as well as education and community outreach programs serving residents of Palm Beach and all of South Florida.
Neurology is a field of particular interest to Janet Levy, who suffered a debilitating stroke in 2002 that left her partially paralyzed. Several doctors told her she would never again walk normally or be able to use her left arm. She was advised to think about an assisted living facility because she would need 24-hour care.
Unwilling to accept that devastating diagnosis, Levy went to see renowned stroke neurologist Ralph Sacco, M.D., who was at Columbia Presbyterian in New York at the time before becoming chair of the Miller School’s Department of Neurology in 2007. For the first time, Levy was given hope.
Dr. Sacco had achieved remarkable success in stroke treatment. He explained to Levy that the body can grow new nerves and if she could reestablish the brain connection, she could regain movement. He encouraged her to continue therapy, telling her that with continual work she could eventually return to her old self.
For two years, Levy worked with physical, occupational, yoga, and aqua therapists. Then one day, while doing her exercises, tapping her hands on the table and going up and down with her fingers, the index finger on Levy’s left side started moving. She continued her extensive therapy program and eventually regained full use of her arm and her ability to walk.
Levy credits the late Dr. Sacco for her recovery, calling it a miracle. Reconnecting years later at the University of Miami, she was impressed by the neurological research taking place under his leadership. Dr. Sacco passed away in January, just days after the Levys’ gift was formally announced.
“After personally experiencing the debilitating and devastating effects of a stroke, and becoming familiar with the intelligence, concern, empathy and, most importantly, the goals of Dr. Sacco to help prevent and ‘cure’ future patients of not only stroke, but other horrible debilitating diseases as well, including MS, Parkinson’s, ALS, and Alzheimer’s, I became determined to assist him to reach those goals,” said Levy.
Before the couple’s recent $500,000 gift, they had hosted several fundraising galas to benefit the neurology department and raise awareness within the Palm Beach community.
"Janet and Mark Levy have made an indelible and long-lasting impact on the Department of Neurology over many years, with both their generous philanthropy and through advocacy,” said Jose G. Romano, M.D., executive vice chair for clinical affairs and acting chair of the Department of Neurology. “They are leaving a lasting mark on the community and at the University of Miami. The Janet and Mark Levy Research Fund will allow our team to make significant strides in research to identify innovative ways to treat neurologic disorders and stroke; in education by helping us train future experts and researchers to address these conditions; and through community engagement by helping us with outreach and community partnerships."
With their names now gracing the wall of the UHealth Concierge Medicine Clinic, the Levys hope to draw greater attention to the exceptional health care available to residents of Palm Beach and surrounding communities.
“There has long been a misconception that you needed to go to New York or Boston for medical care, but that is simply not true,” said Levy. “UHealth and its world-renowned doctors are right here in our backyard. We now have access to the foremost experts and surgeons across more than 100 areas of specialty.”