Donation funds psychological support for cancer patients

The Yale School of Medicine received a $100,000 gift on Wednesday from a pair of brothers, Tariq and Kamran Farid, to improve its psychological support services.

The Farid brothers, who founded Edible Arrangements, chose the School of Medicine’s Pediatric Oncology Department as the next charity for the Farid Foundation to support. The family has a special connection to Yale New-Haven Children’s Hospital, as Kamran was treated there for leukemia as a child. Because of the brothers’ personal experience, they specifically donated the money to the oncology department’s Psychosocial Service, a resource that fulfills patients’ and families’ psychological needs during treatment and recovery from cancer.

The donation will help sustain the Psychosocial Service program, which has only formally been in existence for the past five years, said Gary Kupfer, chief of the Pediatric Oncology Department. He added that this contribution is the largest gift that has ever been made directly to the program.

Kupfer said he hopes to allocate a portion of this donation money to hiring more staff who will provide “direct patient care in the form of psychological support.” Still, he said, it is equally important that the donation will fund research efforts to grow the hospital’s psychological support services and improve quality of life for patients and families.

Pediatrics Department Chair George Lister MED ’73 said he is glad the Psychosocial Service program is getting attention, because it “often falls by the wayside.” Cancer centers “have to think about things above the direct administration of treatments,” he said, adding that donations to psychological support programs are “integral to the functioning of major cancer centers.”

“Emotional and psychological support are essential in helping somebody heal. They are a fundamental part of the complete provision of healthcare,” Lister said.

Pediatric treatments cannot be limited to the patient, Kupfer said, since families — especially siblings — are deeply affected by a child’s cancer. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a common occurrence in the parents of patients, although there are a wide range of psychosocial issues that arise following a diagnosis, he added.

Beyond treating cancer, an oncology department should attempt to restore children to their normal lives as much as possible, and to make the hospital experience “less horrendous,” Lister said. The Farid Foundation’s gift is something to celebrate, he added, because psychological support services have received limited consideration and funding in the realm of cancer treatment.

Robert Alpern, dean of the School of Medicine, called the donation a “critical” contribution to the Pediatric Oncology program. Not only are oncologists “thrilled” to have more money for psychosocial services, but they also appreciate the donors’ personal connection to the hospital.

The Farid Foundation was established in 2005, and the Yale School of Medicine is now one of 26 projects that the foundation supports.

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