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UC Irvine receives anonymous $5 million donation


The University of California, Irvine has received a $5 million gift from an anonymous donor. The funds, earmarked for the Department of Pediatrics, represent the single-largest gift in the department’s history.

“Gifts of such significance allow us to turn our vision into reality and make advances in health care that would not otherwise be possible,” said Dr. David N. Bailey, vice chancellor for health affairs at UC Irvine. “We are extraordinarily grateful for this most generous gift.”

Dr. Feizal Waffarn, chair of the Department of Pediatrics, said he would like to establish endowed chairs for new programs, possibly including one in developmental and behavioral pediatrics, to attract the best research talent and improve care for Orange County’s children. “This is a big endorsement that we have earned the confidence and the respect of the people of Orange County,” Waffarn said. The Department of Pediatrics has earned national recognition in neonatalogy, genetics and child neurology.

The donor, a Los Angeles businessman who has requested anonymity, became familiar with UC Irvine through friends Dana and John Agamalian of Newport Beach. The Agamalians credit doctors and nurses at UC Irvine Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) with saving the lives of their premature twins. Grant and Alexa Agamalian are healthy, happy 4-year-olds today.

UC Irvine’s NICU treats more than 500 infants in crisis annually. It is among the most sophisticated NICU in the region and one of only two in Orange County with a Level III designation, which means it has the capacity to care for the most severely ill babies. Two years ago, UC Irvine physicians successfully delivered Orange County’s first quintuplets, who, after birth, received quality care at the NICU.

“We take a focused, family-oriented approach to navigating a premature infant from birth to discharge,” said Dr. Jack Sills, neonatalogist and medical director of the NICU.

Under Waffarn’s tenure as chair of UC Irvine’s Department of Pediatrics, federal and other research grants – “the yardstick of the academic excellence,” in his words – have more than doubled over the past six years to $17.7 million.

In 2005, the Department of Pediatrics, together with community partners from Orange County, received $14.6 million to establish one of seven Vanguard Centers in the nation to conduct the National Children’s Study. This comprehensive study will track 100,000 children nationwide to determine the impact of environmental, medical and social factors on development and health from birth to age 21.


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