In June 1972, a 16-year-old boy named Don Monti died at North Shore University Hospital of myeloblastic leukemia. Within days of his death his parents, Tita and Joseph, committed themselves to founding an organization in his memory ultimately dedicated to finding a cure for cancer. While a cure has not been found in the years since Don’s passing, much progress has been made.
Establishing Oncology and Hematology division
Starting small, the Montis established steps that are still in place today and that have helped thousands of patients directly, as well as an untold number who have benefited indirectly from the Foundation’s research and the expertise of its physicians. The first step was to establish the Don Monti Division of Oncology and Hematology at North Shore, where no such specialized service existed before. This Division now treats more cancer patients than any other in the region and has offered even more treatment options through the Don Monti Bone Marrow Transplantation Unit. To further its scope and promise, Don Monti Cancer Centers have been opened in Huntington, Glen Cove and Plainview hospitals.
Supporting Cancer Research
The second step was to establish multiple research sites to ensure that bench research could be undertaken to seek out the basic reason for the growth of cancer in the body and learn how to eradicate it. These discoveries, in integrated programs with other major cancer centers worldwide, developed new treatment modalities and drugs. The other arm of research that the Montis helped develop was testing of drugs and treatments through clinical trials.
Over the years, cancer mortality figures began to lower and one of the main reasons for this was the promotion of education to both the lay public and the professionals in the field. The Don Monti Memorial Research Foundation soon created educational programs that run year-round and touch on all types of cancers and symptoms, emotional and physical.
Part of the educational program was the sponsorship of Fellows – oncologists who wish to undertake the ultimate level of training. Four new Don Monti Fellows are named annually.
Additionally, in 2010 the Joseph, Tita and Don Monti Genetics and Human Development Laboratory was opened at LIU’s CW Post Campus in support of their Master of Science in Genetic Counseling – the only program of it’s kind on Long Island.
Putting Cancer Patients First
Patient care, which utilizes the largest portion of the Foundation budget, involves all levels of care for the patient. The optimum in medical care is provided through a superior staff plus a physical environment that is comfortable and welcoming, for both inpatients and those receiving ambulatory treatment.
In 2010, support from the Don Monti Memorial Research Foundation allowed for the expansion of the Cord Blood Program at North Shore University Hospital, thereby significantly increasing the number of life-saving stem-cell transplants that can be offered to patients each year. Additional funding from the Foundation also supports a full-time Nurse Transplant Coordinator who works with patients before, during and after the entire transplant process.
2012 was also a busy year for the Don Monti Memorial Research Foundation at North Shore University Hospital when we implemented a unique Complementary Alternative Therapies Program to help patients through such measures as guided imagery, aromatherapy and music therapy.
Growth through the Decades
The Don Monti Memorial Research Foundation has grown steadily each year. The Foundation’s founder and president, Tita Monti, passed away in 2006. Her beloved husband and former chairman of the Foundation, Joseph Monti, died the following year. But their legacy, and that of their son, Don, lives on.
In 2009, the Joseph and Tita Monti Research Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) opened at the lab’s Hillside Campus, increasing research capacity at CSHL by 40%. Since 2006, the Foundation has also donated more than $2,500,000 to CSHL in support of research that is the basis of development for more effective cancer therapies. And, along with the North Shore-LIJ Health System, the Foundation has created the Tita and Joseph Monti-Vincent Vinciguerra Professorship in Oncology, an endowed chair, which supports further cancer reasearch and patient-care programs.
Today, the Foundation raises more than $1 million annually — more than $42 million since its founding — and serves an ever-growing number of patients. Its commitment remains firm as the second and third generations of Montis, led by President Caroline Monti Saladino, assume responsibility for its mission – research, education, fellowship and patient care.