James C. and Mary Kay East Donate $1 Million To Establish UAMS Chair in Surgical Oncology

By Lee Hogan

Kent C. Westbrook, M.D., distinguished professor in the UAMS College of Medicine, today became inaugural recipient of the chair.

“This generous donation by Mr. and Mrs. East will ensure that our patients have expanded opportunities to participate in their own health care decisions and understand the options available to them. We are ever grateful for their generosity and dedication to improving health care for all Arkansans,” said UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D.

James C. East led Pulaski Bank and Trust from 1973 until its 2006 purchase by Iberiabank, in which he became the largest stockholder. He attended Vanderbilt University, graduated cum laude in 1961 with an engineering degree and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corp. In 1962, he joined the Jack Collier East Co., which he purchased in 1967.

He was the principal founder and first chairman of the Arkansas Prostate Cancer Foundation, whose mission is to provide education about prostate cancer to patients and families. He also was the organizer of the Robert S. Bass Chair in Urologic Oncology at UAMS.

Mary Kay East has a long-time dedication to health care-related issues and has hosted many events in their home to raise awareness and funds for health care organizations.

Westbrook served as director of the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute from 1984-1999. His other roles at UAMS have included serving as interim chair of the Department of Surgery, interim vice chancellor for development, and chair of the Department of Dermatology. Earlier this year he was awarded the UAMS College of Medicine Dean’s Distinguished Alumnus Award and the Arkansas Medical Society’s Asklepion Award for his service to patients and medicine.

“The UAMS Cancer Institute wouldn’t be here today without the commitment of Dr. Westbrook. When he and co-founder Dr. James Suen saw their dream of a cancer institute become reality in 1984, they could never have known the extent in which it would influence our state through life-extending treatments, research endeavors and economic impact,” said Cancer Institute Director Peter Emanuel, M.D.

In addition to Rahn and Emanuel, speakers at the ceremony included Richard H. Turnage, M.D., interim dean of the College of Medicine; Lance E. Burchett, vice chancellor for Institutional Advancement; James C. East, donor; Aubrey J. Hough Jr., M.D., university professor and distinguished professor in the Department of Pathology; and Frederick R. Bentley, M.D., professor and interim chair of the Department of Surgery.

An endowed chair is established with gifts of at least $1 million. The chair holder uses the interest proceeds for research, teaching or service activities.