UCLA celebrated the naming of the UCLA Agi Hirshberg Center for Pancreatic Diseases on Feb. 28 at a gathering of Hirshberg’s family and friends. The naming was made possible by $10 million in gifts from Hirshberg to UCLA.
“Agi Hirshberg’s 18-year commitment to finding a cure has placed UCLA at the forefront of cutting-edge research on pancreatic cancer,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. “In recognition of her visionary support and a generous new $5 million gift, we are pleased to name the UCLA Agi Hirshberg Center for Pancreatic Diseases.”
The campus event also was attended by UCLA faculty and staff as well as members of Women and Philanthropy — of which Hirshberg is president — and the board of visitors of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
Hirshberg established the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research in 1997 in memory of her late husband, Ronald S. Hirshberg, who died of pancreatic cancer at age 54. The innovative research supported by the foundation has changed the face of pancreatic cancer treatment. As the first beneficiary of the foundation’s giving, UCLA established the Ronald S. Hirshberg Translational Pancreatic Cancer Research Laboratory in 1998 and the Ronald S. Hirshberg Chair in Translational Pancreatic Cancer Research in 2000.
Funding from the Hirshberg Foundation has elevated the UCLA center to one of the nation’s premier comprehensive programs for pancreatic cancer and diseases, and it has laid the groundwork for a model in which the needs of people with pancreatic cancer are met in one location with the most advanced treatment options available.
“I strongly believe that the cure for pancreatic cancer is right around the corner. I feel it,” Hirshberg said. “This new commitment ensures continuous research results and allows us to continue on our path toward a cancer-free life.”
Hirshberg’s most recent gift will fund seed grants as well as the center’s highest-priority needs. The Hirshberg Foundation’s Seed Grant Program has helped propel pancreatic cancer research, serving as a springboard for multiple investigations at UCLA and other prestigious institutions and leading to additional investments from the National Institutes of Health and other organizations. Since the program’s inception in 2000, it has generated more than $65 million in additional support for research involving the molecular mechanisms of pancreatic cancer, early diagnosis, surgical and chemotherapeutic treatments, psychosocial approaches to disease management and prevention strategies.
“Agi Hirshberg raised the visibility of this devastating disease and has been instrumental in advancing pancreatic cancer research, not only at UCLA but across the nation,” said Dr. Vay Liang Go, director of the UCLA Center for Excellence in Pancreatic Diseases. “Her ongoing support of the multiple areas focused on pancreatic cancer at UCLA has led to pioneering investigations that have given many patients a chance to survive one of the most deadly forms of cancer.”
According to Dr. Howard Reber, distinguished professor of surgery emeritus, chief of gastrointestinal and pancreatic surgery, and director emeritus of the newly renamed center, “Agi Hirshberg has had a major role in the growth and development of one of the country’s busiest and most successful clinical programs for the multidisciplinary treatment of pancreatic cancer.”
Kathryn Carrico, UCLA’s assistant vice chancellor for health sciences development, said, “We applaud not only Agi’s vision, dedication and leadership, but also the power of her philanthropy.”