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Dance Endowment Gift Honors Key Stakeholder

February 3, 2020
The Milton J. Dance Jr. Endowment’s $3 million gift to the Promise Project is a true Baltimore story.

Led by 10 trustees, the Endowment supports the Milton J. Dance Head and Neck Center, which provides patients with the best medical, rehabilitative and supportive care possible. The endowment's recent campaign support for resident education and a healing garden in the new space serves to complement this mission, as it honors another important tether to the story: W. Lee Thomas.

The Milton J. Dance, Jr. Endowment began the same year the Head and Neck Center of the same name was established by Jeanne Gilchrist Vance and her husband, Milton J. "Laddie" Dance. While Laddie underwent treatment for head and neck cancer in 1979, it was their legal and financial advisor, Lee Thomas, who encouraged the couple to start an endowment to build the Center at GBMC. Years later, Lee would recommend Ginny and Laddie fund and support the Hospice of Baltimore, which today is Gilchrist.

Lee Thomas' interest in the medical field may have come from his wife, Mary. She was a surgical nurse for Dr. Grant Ward, a famed head and neck surgeon in Baltimore. It was his practice that became the practice of Robert Chambers, Darrell Jaques, Richard Hirata and John Saunders. Subsequently, it became Head and Neck Surgery, with such notable surgeons as Carole Fakhy, Patrick Ha, Joseph Califano Ray Blanco and Karen Pitman.

Today’s GBMC’s Milton J. Dance Head and Neck Center is headed by Medical Director, Dr. Karen Pitman and Clinical Director, Barbara Messing, providing, in addition to head and neck cancer care, rehabilitative speech and swallowing care for both pediatric and adult populations. It provides comprehensive voice services through the Johns Hopkins Voice Center at the Dance Center under Drs. Lee Akst, Shumon Dhar and Margaret Skinner.

It was Lee's foresight that brought all the pieces together to create a Center that serves hundreds of patients annually with critically specific types of head and neck disorders and cancers. The Endowment's gift will honor Lee and Mary Thomas and honor the memory of Lee, continuing his legacy of ensuring head and neck patients receive the best care possible.
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