Why the Helmsley Trust Likes Rural Radiation Oncology

With more than $4 billion in assets, the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust has a lot of money to invest. It also has a stated interest in rural health care. This is good news for America's rural hospitals, which often lag behind their urban counterparts in terms of funding and services. (Read Helsmley Director of Rural Healthcare Shelley Stingley's IP profile.)

The Helmsley Trust recently announced it will put more than $2.9 million toward the creation of a $6 million radiation oncology facility at McCook, Nebraska's Community Hospital. More specifically, the Hemlsley funding will go toward the purchase of a new linear accelerator to more effectively treat cancer patients in southwest Nebraska and northwest Kansas. (See Helmsley Trust: Grants for Hospitals and Health Centers.)

The Community Hospital team emphasizes in a press release just how important the Helmsley Trust investment is in providing needed cancer treatment to an underserved, rural population:

Radiation therapy requires daily treatments for up to seven weeks. Currently patients travel a minimum of 70 miles one way to receive radiation treatments, which take only a matter of minutes. "We have known for many years the ability to provide radiation oncology in McCook will save our patients hours of travel and allow them the convenience and comfort of staying nearer their home," [Community Hospital President and CEO Jim] Ulrich said.


The press release also notes that an average of 325 cancer cases a year are diagnosed in the hospital's service region. That's a lot of people who don't have ready access to cancer treatment facilities in the United States. Helmsley's new radiation oncology center hopefully will improve both the availability of cancer treatment in the region and the quality of life that comes from knowing that life-and-death health-care needs can be adequately and readily addressed.

Helmsley is a major funder of hospital facilities around the country (a look at its recent grants shows millions of dollars in hospital investments already this year). The foundation has a particular interest in enhancing rural health care in America's Midwest, which, for Helmsley's grantmaking purposes, consists of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming, western Minnesota, and Iowa. Groups interested in Helmsley funding will have to attract the philanthropic giant's interest in unconventional ways, however. The trust accepts grant proposals by invitation only and states that it is not considering grant inquiries at the time this post is being written.