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Creating a new chair in musculoskeletal oncology
Dr. Ross Wilkins has spent his professional career as a human orthopaedic oncologist focused on saving the limbs and lives of his patients, and not turning away anyone in need of his help. As co-founder and director of The Denver Clinic for Extremities at Risk (formerly known as the Institute for Limb Preservation), Dr. Wilkins also has forged a unique bond with the Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University where he is a faculty affiliate – a bond of friendship, collaborative research, enhanced patient care, and turning visionary dreams into reality.
To honor his work, his commitment to his patients, and his passion for pushing forward research into limb preservation, The Limb Preservation Foundation and the Animal Cancer Center are working together to establish the Ross M. Wilkins University Chair in Musculoskeletal Oncology at Colorado State University.
“It’s all about the passion” said Dr. Wilkins. “The passion of many people who believe that kids and animals with cancer shouldn’t lose their limbs or die. We need to find the answers. This chair assures that the passion endures.”
Fundraising efforts at the Animal Cancer Center (ACC) and The Limb Preservation Foundation have reached the halfway mark, with organizers hoping additional donations will allow the chair to be fully funded by 2010. Once fully funded at $3 million, the chair will ensure the continuity of extremity research with a stable base of financial support.
“With the creation of this University Chair, we are honoring the legacy of Ross Wilkins and his work in musculoskeletal cancer,” said Dr. Stephen Withrow, Director of the Animal Cancer Center and a member of the Limb Preservation Foundation’s board of directors. “Ross has been a mentor, friend, and colleague for 20 years, and I have seen firsthand his dedication to his patients. He also is highly active in safety education, research, indigent care, and teaching and fundraising to support research in musculoskeletal cancer.”
Drs. Withrow and Wilkins have worked together over the years to take limb-sparing procedures first developed at the Animal Cancer Center for veterinary patients, and adapt those procedures to human patients. Such translational medicine is seen in other areas of cancer research at the ACC, particularly in the areas musculoskeletal cancer that the new endowed chair will support. The chair, notes Dr. Withrow, takes the long-term view of what the ACC and The Limb Preservation Foundation want to establish now to take both programs into the future.
“People make programs and by supporting high-quality research scientists, we will broaden and deepen our research endeavors,” said Dr. Withrow. “Our clinics already operate at a high level, the next step is to go deeper into research for cancer in animals and people.”
The Denver Clinic for Extremities at Risk, sponsored by Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center, was created in 1986 by Dr. Wilkins and the late Dr. Tom Arganese, who had the common vision that all people with complex extremity problems should have access to the best medical care, regardless of their ability to pay. Medical issues faced by patients at Extremities at Risk include cancer, diabetes, accidental injury, circulatory disease, and other medical conditions that compromise limb health.
The Limb Preservation Foundation was established in 2000 with the mission to support the prevention and treatment of limb threatening conditions due to trauma, tumor, or infection. This Colorado not-for-profit organization provides patient treatment programs, educational programs, and funding for extremity research with the goal of addressing the needs of individuals who are facing the potential loss of a limb.