Last updated: November 25. 2013 3:45PM - 1171 Views
By - cberendt@civitasmedia.com

Courtesy photoThe 7th annual Partnership for Life Gala, sponsored by the Sampson Regional Medical Center Foundation, raised approximately $20,000 toward establishing the Medical Education Fund. 'Casino Night in Atlantis' was the theme of the event, held at the Sampson County Agri-Exposition Center.
Courtesy photoThe 7th annual Partnership for Life Gala, sponsored by the Sampson Regional Medical Center Foundation, raised approximately $20,000 toward establishing the Medical Education Fund. 'Casino Night in Atlantis' was the theme of the event, held at the Sampson County Agri-Exposition Center.
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Even as the Sampson Regional Medical Center Foundation gears up for its “Tree of Love” holiday fundraising, Foundation officials said October’s annual gala was a great success, raising around $20,000 toward starting a fund that would advance the hospital as a training facility for physicians and medical students, in the ultimate hope they will stay in Sampson.

The 7th annual Partnership for Life Gala, sponsored by the Foundation, was held Oct. 26 at Prestage Hall, Sampson Agri-Exposition Center. The theme for the night was “Casino Night in Atlantis,” with all proceeds going toward establishing the Medical Education Fund.

“The gala went really well,” said SRMC Foundation executive director Amber Cava. “We netted between $19,000 and $20,000. There are still a couple more contributions coming in, so we did really good with that.”

The gala has contributed for years to improving local health care. The gala serves as one of the Foundation’s primary fundraising events, helping raise money through community support and private donations for improvements within the hospital through equipment purchases and facility upgrades. This year continued in that effort, albeit with a push toward something that was less tangible in the short term, but a more long-term human investment for the future.

“The funds are going to the establishment of a new Medical Education Fund for Sampson Regional,” said Cava. “It was establishing seed money, so there wasn’t a particular goal that we needed to meet for that, but we’re within range for where we are for that project.”

Last year’s event, a Vegas casino-themed night, was a hit, prompting the Foundation board to lean toward a similar theme, while incorporating a cruise theme the gala began with years ago, Cava said. No money exchanges hands, but the casino games and gambling tables have proven popular. Along with the gaming, the gala also provided a silent auction, live auction and raffle prizes.

“We appreciate the community’s support and the business support, of everyone who donated items for our raffle, our silent auction, who bought sponsorship tables or tickets and supported that event — all of those contributions helped us have a successful event and provide those funds that will go to the Medical Education Fund,” stressed Cava.

The fund is yet another step in a positive direction for the hospital, one that is able to be made thanks to the gala and a giving community.

In previous years, proceeds have benefited significant Emergency Room improvements and equipment purchases, the relocation and complete renovation of the Pediatric Unit and a full front lobby overhaul, including new furnishings and paint to make the hospital’s entrance more inviting. Other gala events have seen the purchase of digital mammography equipment, as well as subsequent upgrades allowing for 3D breast imaging.

“Any time we can do anything that preserves services in the county, brings high-tech, state-of-the-art equipment or enhances the space we’re offering in our facility, it helps keep services close to home patients in our community who don’t want to drive somewhere else to receive those same services they can receive here,” said Cava.

Physician recruitment is an incredible challenge for rural hospitals, one that is imperative to SRMC continuing to be a quality health care provider, said Dr. Shawn Howerton, interim CEO for Sampson Regional.

“With rural health care in general, it is a challenge to recruit physicians,” said Howerton, who assisted in coordinating the cause of the gala. “As we move more and more into the physician shortage, it’s even more of a challenge.”

With the natural attrition of current local physicians, some of whom have served the community for decades, establishing a Medical Education Fund and, down the road, a residency program, is the hope of hospital officials to groom the next generation of young physicians who will make Sampson County home for the years to come.

As part of the effort, Sampson Regional will be teaming up with Campbell University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine. Campbell students would start coming in 2015 and hospital officials are hoping to get into offering residencies shortly thereafter. It is hoped all that will translate into qualified physicians choosing Sampson County as their home.

Recruiting physicians to the hospital comes at a cost, hospital officials said, and the Medical Fund is a good investment in getting in on the ground floor.

“It’s really important to our medical staff that there are going to be other highly-trained qualified physicians in place who are going to take care of their patients who they have long cared for,” said Cava. “There are a number of services we’re always recruiting for, but the goal would be that we bring students in and, as they spend time training for a year or two in our community, they establish themselves in our community.”

Between the Foundation board and a large gala committee, Cava said, there were many who “worked tirelessly” to ensure the event was successful and that seed money accumulated.

“Just as much as the financial gifts and in-kind donations,” she noted, “the time of those people really helped make that event successful.”

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at cberendt@civitasmedia.com.

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