Family gives $1 million to honor Carle doctor
URBANA — Family members of longtime Carle physician Dr. Eugene Greenberg are giving Carle $1 million to honor his career, and the digestive health center that houses Greenberg's specialty will soon bear his name.
The donation will be used to establish the Dr. Eugene Greenberg Institute for Digestive Health, says Lyn Jones, vice president of the Carle Center for Philanthropy.
"It's a great gift," Jones says. "But when it's made by your family to honor you, it's all that much better."
Greenberg, a gastroenterologist who came to Carle in 1968, is an active clinician, teacher and researcher.
Carle's digestive health center diagnoses and treats digestive health diseases such as celiac disease, hepatitis, Chron's disease, diverticulitis, colorectal cancer, acid reflux and inflammatory bowel disease. Set to be dedicated as an institute in September, its focus will broaden to include more research and education, Carle officials say.
One of Greenberg's sons, Michael Greenberg, 53, of Wilmette, said his dad turned 80 last month and the family wanted to find a significant way to honor him on this birthday year. They considered a scholarship fund, he said, but "digestive health was always his passion."
Dr. Greenberg is still practicing medicine full-time, and his work is also his hobby — so much so that he continues to attend at least five, sometimes more, continuing eduction sessions a year, Michael Greenberg says.
"He really loves it," he adds.
At the same time, Michael Greenberg says, his father has also made his life about family.
The younger Greenberg happily recalls his dad taking two weeks off in the summer during his childhood for family vacations, and some of the important things his father taught him about perseverance, working hard and the importance of family.
"It's about supporting the family, living for the family, enjoying family time, moments together, celebrating the good times, the bad times and always being there for one another," he says.
Establishing a digestive health institute was already on the Carle Foundation's horizon as part of its overall research strategy, and the Greenberg family gift will help accelerate those plans, says Dr. Andrew Batey, the digestive health center's medical director.
"We want to be able to raise the level of care to that of a university setting," he said.
The digestive health center already is engaged in some research, he said, and as an institute it will develop a high-quality research program in collaboration with the University of Illinois.
Establishing the institute will also involve fine-tuning some of the services, being committed to educating physicians and the community, and firmly rooting Carle's digestive health facility as a regional referral center for patients in this part of the state, Batey said.
The digestive health center has also been building its physician base, and plans to continue to look for staff who can bring expertise, he says.
"Even before the institute dream is realized, that is number one," he said. "We want to raise the level of care with the facilities we have."
Batey said Greenberg has had a very significant impact on the digestive health center and its caregivers, and also has been inspiration for him.
"Sometimes, we wonder where he gets all his energy from," he says.
Greenberg, who wasn't available for an interview, spent two years in the Army before he arrived at Carle. Before that, he completed his residency and fellowship in internal medicine and post-doctoral fellowship in gastroenterology at Mayo Clinic, according to information supplied by Carle.
He was one of the first Carle doctors to perform colonoscopies and gastroscopies (tests to look inside the stomach) and brought to Carle the double-balloon enteroscopy, a procedure to examine the small intestine. In addition to his work for Carle, he is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Illinois College of Medicine.
"He has seen a lot of changes here, and he remains a good motivator for all of us and example of how to care for patients, in general, with his compassion and his experience for all these years," Batey said.
Michael Greenberg said family members also involved in the gift include his aunt, Sally Schneider, and his sister, Julie Greenberg, and brother, Steve Greenberg, and he hopes others in the community will be motivated to join them in donating.
His father isn't one for seeing his name recognized, and hearing about all this was an overwhelming moment for him, Michael Greenberg said.
"He just couldn't believe that it had been done for him," he added.
By the numbers: Carle's digestive health center and its future namesake:
40,000: Its square footage.
$9 million: Price tag to build it in Carle's north tower.
2009: When it opened.
10,000-plus: Diagnostic and screening procedures done there annually.
1968: The year gastroenterologist Dr. Eugene Greenberg arrived at Carle.
20-plus: Greenberg's peer-reviewed publications in the area of gastrointestinal diseases.