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Anatomy of a gift

Leo Fung, M.D.

Family’s pediatric urology fund relaunches a legacy cut short

When Leo Fung, M.D., died in 2005, his family and colleagues were stunned. As chief of urology at what’s now University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital, Fung was widely considered to be a rising star in the field of pediatric urology. But when stomach pains began plaguing him, doctors discovered that he had angiosarcoma, a rare and highly invasive cancer. Five months later, the successful doctor was dead, leaving behind a wife and three children. He was 42 years old.

“There was such an outpouring of love and support for Leo,” recalls his brother, Richard Fung, a Los Angeles-based attorney. “We wanted to do something to cherish his memory but also to honor all his colleagues and patients who’d donated to his memorial fund.”

Still reeling from their grief over Fung’s abrupt illness and death, the family decided to use the fund to establish a lectureship that would bring in top pediatric urologists to share information with the entire pediatrics department. Seven years later, that lectureship is going strong.

But the Fungs wanted to do more. Prompted by their parents, Shiu-Lam and Sydney Fung—who live in Hong Kong, where they’d raised their children—Richard and his sister, Claire Fisher, M.D., chose to make a larger gift.

With their hearts and their funds committed, the Fung family then faced a bigger decision: what, specifically, would be the best way to ensure that Leo Fung’s legacy would live on in Minnesota? Richard Fung was both surprised and gratified when his brother’s successor, Aseem Shukla, M.D. (now at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia), reached out to learn as much as he could about Leo.

“Even though he’d never met Leo,” says Fung, “he came up with several great ideas for programs that I was sure Leo would have embraced.”

One idea stood out: starting an international training program that would bring doctors from less developed countries to Minnesota, where they could see firsthand the work being done by the University’s world-class pediatric urologists. (Leo had been exploring the same idea before his death.) And thus was born the Leo C. T. Fung, M.D., Pediatric Urology Scholars Program.

The $500,000 gift from the Fung family will enable one doctor each year to come to the University to observe, listen, and learn, and then bring that information back to his or her home base.

“It’s important for us to recognize the vision of the Fung family to direct their gift in this way,” says urology department chair Badrinath Konety, M.D., M.B.A. “There is no pediatric urology specialty in many countries. Many kids just die if they are born with certain genetic abnormalities. With this program, we can help significantly elevate urology care for these kids worldwide.”

When the first doctor-scholar arrives later this year, the extended Fung family plans to be on hand for a launch celebration that honors Leo’s accomplishments.

“Of the many places Leo practiced, he seemed most at home at the University of Minnesota,” says his brother. “So we’re happy to help establish a program that dovetails so perfectly with Leo’s passion for education, for sharing knowledge with doctors in parts of the world where children don’t have access to surgeons like Leo. He would have liked that.”

By Barbara Knox

To learn more about advancing the Leo Fung, M.D., Pediatric Urology Scholars Program or other pediatric global health efforts, contact Courtney Billing at 612-626-1931 or cbilling@umn.edu.

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