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Providing Hope for Gynecological Cancer Patients

January 27, 2021 by Leah Kalinosky

Don Kelly remembers his wife Anne and shares the inspiration behind their gift to Sibley Memorial Hospital

This story first appeared in the Planning Matters Winter 2021 Issue.

Anne and Don Kelly were married for nearly 50 years. When Anne became ill with peritoneal cancer in 2012, she had surgery at Sibley Memorial Hospital, a Johns Hopkins Medicine community hospital located in Washington, D.C., and received chemotherapy treatment at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Over the years, Anne and Don came to know and love Sibley as their community hospital — so much so that they made plans in their estate to support Sibley’s Center for Gynecologic Oncology and Advanced Pelvic Surgery, with an emphasis on ovarian and peritoneal malignancies. In recognition of their commitment, the center will be named in their honor. While Anne passed away in 2020, her legacy will live on through the gift she and Don made to help more women receive the care and support they need during treatment and beyond.

Tell us about Anne.

You would never know it, but Anne was a farm girl. She really loved animals and her parents’ dairy farm in Pennsylvania. She loved hanging around her dad and learning the business of farming. In high school, Anne developed a passion for politics and government. John Kennedy came through Reading, Pennsylvania, on a whistle stop her senior year in high school, but her mother wouldn’t let her go because she was sick. She was heartbroken. But when she came to D.C. to go to college, she volunteered for Kennedy’s election campaign. After getting a master’s degree in education, she became a teacher in Montgomery County, Maryland, not far from Sibley. Later she received a master’s degree in organizational development from George Washington University and ultimately worked in leadership training in various federal agencies. At the peak of her federal career Anne was CEO of the Federal Consulting Group, where she worked until retirement.

Portrait of Anne and Don Kelly from waist up
In recognition of Anne and Don Kelly, Sibley Memorial Hospital’s Gynecologic Oncology and Advanced Pelvic Surgery center will be named in their honor.

What has been your relationship to Sibley Memorial Hospital?

We had both always been active and healthy and hadn’t needed hospitals very much before Anne became ill in 2012. When she first developed stomach problems, we went to our primary care physician, who told us we would need to go to a hospital. We asked him where he would go if it were him and he said Sibley. We fell in love with it immediately. We discovered Sibley has its own personality; it has a quality that is truly outstanding. It was unexpected and wonderful. The personal approach to care at Sibley helps when you’re sick and you want to feel like you’re in a safe place.

What inspired your commitment to the Sibley Center for Gynecologic Oncology and Advanced Pelvic Surgery?

We had some real heroes in mind when we set up our estate. Dr. Jeffrey Lin, director of the Sibley Center for Gynecologic Oncology and Advanced Pelvic Surgery, really saved Anne’s life the first time she got sick. It was a very long surgery and he worked all night. Over the years she had relapses and more surgeries with him. Dr. Ari Fishman, Anne’s medical oncologist, was another hero to us. After one of Anne’s surgeries, Anne was too weak to go to the infusion center for chemotherapy, so he brought the treatment to her. They both gave us a little more time together and we wanted to honor that gift.

What do you hope the impact of your gift will be?

Meeting the challenges of medicine requires significant investments and a lot of people have to join in to make these things happen. Anne and I both hoped that our contribution will provide meaningful input to a solution for peritoneal cancer. It’s not as common as breast cancer and some of the other cancers, but it’s a real predator. We wanted to make a gift that would provide hope for those patients.

How do you think Anne would want to be remembered?

I think she would want to be remembered as someone who made a difference in people’s lives. She had a natural talent for it. Wherever she worked she left an imprint that was uniquely hers. She made things better. She was an excellent listener and had a way of talking with people that would allow them to come around to their own solutions. She knew it had to come from inside them and she helped them find it.

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Topics: Friends of Johns Hopkins Medicine, Sibley Memorial Hospital, Fuel Discovery, Promote and Protect Health