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In 2008, Chris Rakhshan feared he would lose his daughter to cancer.

Pamela Rakhshan, then 18, had been diagnosed with mucoepidermoid carcinoma -- a malignant tumor in her trachea.

Ten years later, Pamela is cancer-free, and a $1 million gift to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences from her family will establish an academic chair in her name to advance research in the Department of Otolaryngology, in honor of a physician there who saved her life.

Dr. James Y. Suen operated on Pamela for more than 10 hours and continued her follow-up care, according to the hospital. Suen is a distinguished professor in the department of otolaryngology, which specializes in head and neck surgery.

"I thought for sure we had lost her," Chris Rakhshan said in a news release from UAMS. "But Dr. Suen told me later that he took extra time, because she's so young, and he wanted to be sure that not only the operation was successful, but that she would never have any issues. He took extra time to make sure everything was done to perfection."

Mucoepidermoid carcinoma is a rare condition, occurring only two or three times per 100,000 people per year and most often in the elderly.

Rakhshan didn't forget Suen's perseverance and compassionate, soft-spoken manner, he told the hospital. Before he moved from Arkansas to Colorado, he donated his Hot Springs home to UAMS in January. The hospital received nearly $1 million in proceeds from the sale.

"Sometimes we mistakenly measure our fortunes with what's in our pocket," Rakhshan said. "And at the time, when I was going through this with my daughter, I realized that my true fortunes in life were what was in front of me -- my family. And there's no greater gratitude I could have had to Dr. Suen and UAMS for bringing her back to me."

The gift is among the largest the otolaryngology department has ever received, according to Lance Burchett, vice chancellor for institutional advancement.

"I want to applaud Mr. Rakhshan not only for his generosity but for his resourcefulness," Burchett said. "It really turned out to be a win-win for all parties."

The university has not yet named a professor to the Pamela Rakhshan Chair. The gift will support the chair holder's educational, research and clinical activities, with interest from the donation providing funding for continued research in the field of head and neck malignancies.

"An endowed chair is a very important gift to an academic department as it allows us to support research essentially indefinitely," Dr. John Dornhoffer, chairman of the otolaryngology department, said. "This gift allows us to recruit and retain the best and brightest researchers to our state and supports new research ideas with the intent of attaining major National Institutes of Health funding."

Suen expressed gratitude for the gift to his department.

"This chair will be at UAMS for as long as UAMS exists, and the interest can be used year after year for research, helping us find cures for patients that have these vascular anomalies," he said. "This gift will make a huge difference and I think will save many lives in the future. We're grateful to Chris and Pamela for that."

Metro on 07/04/2018

Print Headline: Family gifts $1 million to honor UAMS doctor

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  • smmlv3
    July 4, 2018 at 10:19 a.m.

    This story would have been far more inspirational if it was not clear that Dr. Suen apparently gave more time and care to treatment of the lady because of her youth. I know that UAMS medical records has had a check box on medical records to indicate VIP? yes or no. Discriminating against older or poorer patients is certainly immoral if not downright illegal.

  • susieshe
    July 4, 2018 at 11:09 a.m.

    Dr Suen was my husband's doctor when he needed surgery for melanoma. Dan was neither young nor a VIP and I can tell you unequivocally that those factors made no difference to Dr Suen. He is absolutely the most compassionate doctor I've ever known. Having talked to many of his other patients families while in the waiting room during Dan's surgery it was abundantly clear that this feeling was held by all.

  • LR1955
    July 4, 2018 at 11:46 a.m.

    Dr Suen is a super Dr to any patient he sees.