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Remembering Virginia Piper and celebrating a milestone

  • As a young girl, Gretchen Piper felt that her grandmother, Virginia Piper, was almost larger than life. That impression seems to have come true.

    "I have wonderful memories of being with my grandmother when I was young. We were very close," said Piper. "She was a strong leader and a gracious woman."

    Today, Virginia's dedication to making life better for those around her lives on. She was the inspiration for the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute®, which was founded at Abbott Northwestern in 1993 by her husband, Harry, after she had died from pancreatic cancer.

    Two years later, Piper Breast Center® was established. As the first of the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute's disease-specific programs, it has set the standard for coordinated cancer care and support services organized around the needs of the patient. 

    The 20th anniversary of Piper Breast Center is a milestone with special significance for the Piper family.

    "It's been incredible to see my grandfather's vision for the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute become reality," said Piper.

    She knows that her grandparents would be extremely pleased and proud of how Piper Breast Center has laid the foundation for comprehensive, holistic cancer care.

    And Piper herself knows what Piper Breast Center means for those it serves. Friends often call her if they or someone they know is being treated at Piper Breast Center. Some are fearful, waiting for results. Others are extremely grateful and want her to know about their experience.

    "It's great to be able reassure someone about the standard of care at Piper Breast Center and to always feel confident in recommending it," she said.

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    Piper Breast Center Opening

    Gretchen Piper, third from right, and members of her family, gathered around a portrait of Virginia Piper during a Piper Breast Center event several years ago.