McGuires create fund for palliative care

By Leah Tieger

Peter and June McGuire with Dr. Steven Leach

Philanthropists June and Peter McGuire have made a generous gift to UT Southwestern, creating the June A. and Peter G. McGuire Fund for Palliative Care, in Honor of Steven Leach, M.D. The McGuires are active supporters of Southwestern Medical Foundation and were inspired in making their gift by Dr. Leach’s passion for palliative medicine.

“We are honored to have worked with Southwestern Medical Foundation for the past 25 years and for this opportunity to support Dr. Leach. He is a light on the hill for all to see, and we’re thankful for his life of helping others,” Mr. McGuire said.

Palliative care is a collaborative effort between the medical team and the family, designed to help patients, caregivers, and loved ones feel comforted and empowered while transitioning through the stages of advanced illness. As Chief of the Section of Palliative Medicine at UT Southwestern, Dr. Leach oversees a team of physicians, nurse practitioners, advanced practice providers, pharmacists, a psychologist, social workers, and a chaplain who provide specialized medical care for patients.

“Everyone has, or will be, touched by loved ones dealing with serious illness, and that resonated with the McGuires,” said Dr. Leach, Professor of Internal Medicine. “The McGuire Fund will support the palliative care team and their mission to care for the whole person, including their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, for years to come.”

UT Southwestern palliative care physicians provide care at UT Southwestern University Hospitals and Parkland Hospital, working with a patient’s regular care team to help relieve the physical and emotional suffering of patients at any stage of a serious or advanced illness. The team helps patients better understand the disease and clarifies treatment goals and options; assists patients in making medical decisions; guides patients through pain management; and helps coordinate the patient’s medical care with other doctors. Team members also provide opportunities to create legacy projects – including books, photo albums, and memory boxes – that can be shared with future generations. Legacy projects bring families together, assist in the grieving process, and ensure that the memory of the deceased lives on.

Palliative care is often confused with hospice care, which is typically needed when curative therapy is no longer wanted or helpful. Patients receiving palliative care are not necessarily terminally ill, and treatment is provided in the hospital or clinic.

“At UT Southwestern, we believe in caring for patients holistically to ensure comfort and maximize autonomy in their daily lives,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern. “June and Peter’s gift elevates the level of support our palliative care team is able to provide to help patients experience a higher quality of life, even as they are approaching its end, and this enhanced support serves as a boon to the family as well as the patient.”

In addition to supporting services for adults, the Fund will also aid in the program’s provision of child life specialists, who are trained to work with children as they process the serious illness of a parent.

“Palliative and supportive care is a deeply necessary part of quality patient care,” said Kathleen Gibson, President and CEO of Southwestern Medical Foundation. “This wonderful gift from the McGuire family is already inspiring others through matching gifts. They are champions in creating awareness of a little-known but critically needed area of health care for the patient and their family.”

If you are interested in supporting palliative care efforts at UT Southwestern, please email Amanda Billings or call the Office of Development and Alumni Relations at 214-648-2344.

Love and life, celebrated

At age 30, Felipe Martinez Lopez was diagnosed with metastatic esophageal cancer. During his time at Parkland Hospital, he and his fiancée got to know the palliative care team.

During his visits with palliative care, he shared that he and Maria had been together for many years but had not been able to marry due to family and financial reasons. Felipe helped raise her three children as his own, and he was the only father they knew. During his last hospitalization, Maria shared how sad she was that she would not be able to marry the love of her life. Knowing the importance of this event, the palliative care team immediately began planning a very special wedding.

The event was a huge success due to the coordination from various services, including the Medical Intensive Care Unit, Pastoral Care, Respiratory Care, Language Services, and Palliative Care. The wedding was held July 20, 2018, in the Ron J. Anderson, MD, Chapel at Parkland. Surrounded by more than 50 guests – including Parkland staff and UT Southwestern doctors who provide care at Parkland, all who cared for the family during his hospitalization – Felipe and Maria exchanged vows and married. Three days later, Felipe passed away.

“Felipe was the happiest that we had seen during his admission when he was down in the chapel next to his wife,” said Amanda Jones, a family support nurse. The family shared gratitude that the palliative care team was able to help Maria and her family create such a beautiful and lasting memory of Felipe.


Dr. Leach holds the Irene Wadel and Robert Atha, Jr. Professorship of Internal Medicine, in Honor of John W. Burnside, M.D.

Dr. Podolsky holds the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery, Jr., M.D. Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration, and the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science.