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Robin Edwards

“We felt that when you help doctors and others in health care, you’re helping people from all walks of life.” – Robin Edwards

Grateful grandmother rallies for children’s health by funding research initiatives at Charles P. Darby Children’s Research Institute

Myrtle Beach resident Robin Edwards made a $3 million gift to the Medical University of South Carolina, providing a huge boost to researchers working to develop new treatments and cures for childhood diseases.

Mrs. Edwards says she had three deeply personal reasons for making her recent gift.  It wasn’t because she and her husband, Tom, had had several positive patient experiences at MUSC. Or because the couple had enjoyed a long-standing friendship with MUSC President Emeritus James B. Edwards and his wife, Ann.

“It was the triplets,” she says without hesitation.

Ten years ago, her daughter developed a complicated pregnancy, with triplets. “Nobody here at home would even touch triplets at the time, so we brought her to MUSC,” recalls Mrs. Edwards.  “Of course, we were very worried, but those three children arrived in perfect condition and their mother came through it just fine as well.  Grandmama was a mess, but everyone else was great! It was one of the happiest days of my life.”

Motivated mainly by that positive experience, Mr. and Mrs. Edwards began discussing ways in which they might help the Children’s Hospital create similar happy situations for other families.  Sadly, Tom passed away before their vision could be realized together, but Robin never forgot the firm sense of commitment they both felt upon the birth of their healthy grandchildren.

“We talked about it a good bit before he died,” she says. “We felt that when you help doctors and others in health care, you’re helping people from all walks of life.  We saw eye to eye on that.  It was a very easy decision for us.” 

Mrs. Edwards’ gift will be used to create a new endowed chair in pediatric nephrology at the Charles P. Darby Children’s Research Institute.  The chair will enable the University to attract and support a world-renowned pediatric nephrologist to explore new treatments and ultimately a cure for chronic kidney disease, which currently affects an estimated 460,000 South Carolinians.

Her gift also will create a separate research endowment to help fledgling research projects get off the ground. 

“Of course, many of our investigations are supported by the National Institutes of Health grants,” says Pediatrics Chairman Dr. L. Lyndon Key.  “However, before a study can be approved for NIH funding, we have to conduct preliminary research to prove that the study’s scientific principles are sound and that it has the potential to achieve meaningful breakthroughs.  This new research endowment will provide us with the seed money needed to perform these preliminary studies, obtain National Institute for Health grants and launch full-scale investigations.” 

As endowed funds, both the chair and the research fund will exist in perpetuity, creating a permanent means of pursuing new innovations in the field of children’s health, said MUSC President Dr. Ray Greenberg.

“An investment in research can open an infinite number of doors in advancing what we understand about health and disease,” said Dr. Greenberg. “In that light, it is difficult to comprehend the dramatic and far-reaching impact that this gift will have on children’s health in South Carolina and beyond. We are incredibly grateful for Mrs. Edwards’ confidence and generosity.”

The sentiment was echoed by Mrs. Edwards’ friend, MUSC President Emeritus Dr. Jim Edwards.

“Tom was one of the finest examples of humanity I’ve ever known, and Robin has always been very passionate about children’s health,” says Dr. Edwards. “The three of us had talked about something like this for many years, but I don’t think anyone, myself included, expected anything on this scale.  I’m extremely grateful for their friendship and their generosity, and I know Tom would be so proud of Robin.”

In recognition of Mrs. Edwards’ gift, the Children’s Hospital will name its Atrium in honor of her and her husband.  Filled with toys, books and games, the Atrium is a colorful, light-filled solarium where patients and their families can relax and play during hospitalization. The Atrium is seen by patients as a "safe haven," away from the sometimes stressful environment associated with patient care.