Feature

Paying It Forward

Med School Alumnus Supports the Future of Gynecologic Oncology

Jimmy and Vicki Orr (far right) are opening up new opportunities for first-year fellows to conduct clinical research. The Orrs are pictured here with UVA Gynecologic Oncology Division Director Susan Modesitt (far left) and 2017 Orr Scholar Lisa Rauh.
(Photo: Coe Sweet)

Medical school can be incredibly intense, but for Jimmy Orr (A&S ’71, Med ’76) the calming force of a special mentor— Dr. Peyton Taylor—not only helped him succeed but inspired his life’s work. 

“Peyton laid the foundation for me to pursue a career in gynecologic oncology,” says Jimmy, medical director of the Lee Health’s Regional Cancer Center and Florida Gynecologic Oncology. “When you are devoted to an important cause, it’s important to promote it, support it, and create future opportunities for others to drive it forward.” 

In 2013, Jimmy and his wife Vicki honored Taylor through a $2 million bequest, establishing the James and Vicki Orr Clinical Professorship in Women’s Oncology. They also wanted to make an impact on new generations of caregivers right now. 

The Orrs began funding their bequest during their lifetime, staging the gift to have the most impact. Now each year, interest from the fund provides support for an Orr Scholar, helping first-year gynecologic oncology fellows pursue a clinical research project. Regardless of whether the forward steps are small or big, medical progress does not occur without financial investment or support. The Orrs believe that “giving works best when driven by your values and connected to what you care about most.” 

“Private philanthropy is going to take on a much larger role for medical education and research in the coming years as we face deep funding cuts,” explains Susan Modesitt, MD, director of UVA’s Gynecologic Oncology Division and co-director of UVA’s High Risk Breast and Ovarian Cancer Clinic. “The Orrs’ generosity provides flexibility and support that helps our fellows conduct important research early in their careers.” 

This year’s Orr Scholar Lisa Rauh, MD (Med ’19) has several projects she is considering pursuing, including studying the cost effectiveness in treating cervical cancer patients who live at a distance using telehealth. The Orr fellowship will help her focus on her studies and research. 

“I couldn’t do this type of project on my own,” she explains. “The award can help purchase software or allow me to work with a statistician. Fellows don’t have a lot of money, but we have good ideas. This award helps ensure our research is done right and will help the most people.” 

This is the power of private support, explains Modesitt. 

“We have to get these young doctors interested in research early,” Modesitt concludes. “If we can’t conduct meaningful research, we won’t enjoy future breakthroughs in cancer treatments that will save lives.” 

To learn more about supporting fellowships and scholarships at UVA Cancer Center, please click here.