Phyllis Mindell, 81, still recalls the coats her father Sol Gross made out of remnants of Persian lamb in a rented New York loft. Despite his allergies, he’d patch the scraps together, in 10-inch strips, to create coats to sell at modest department stores.
“He was an unsuccessful furrier, it was the worst possible thing for an intellectual,” Mindell says from her home in Washington, D.C.
At the time, however, the world, and with it the Gross family, was being battered by the Great Depression.
“You did anything you could to make a living,” she says.
The family lived frugally, but there was one thing Sol and Esther Gross always had money for: charity. Before taking a trip in the late ‘60s, Mindell’s father brought an envelope to her house and placed it in a book. Were something to happen to him, she was to send it to the address marked on the envelope.
“When he returned, he took the envelope and mailed it away,” says Mindell, who’d been unaware her father had been helping support a less-fortunate family overseas.
This compassion left a mark on Mindell, a writer who ran a successful business teaching advanced communications.
Over the years, she’s given to various organizations and recently started the Mindell Family Fund to support the research, education and clinical work of three Johns Hopkins Medicine physicians.
Lisa Jacobs, a surgeon and one of Mindell’s physicians, explains, “All faculty members have gift funds. They give us flexibility to work on our research and make discretionary decisions related to it.”
After discovering a lump in her left breast, Mindell’s internist advised her to immediately visit a world-class breast health center with rapid diagnosis and treatment.
“You’re going to Baltimore,” he told her.
Within two days of arriving at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Mindell was seen and evaluated by radiologist Nagi Khouri, received a breast biopsy establishing she had cancer, then worked with Jacobs and plastic surgeon Justin Sacks on a treatment plan.
Mindell opted for surgery, followed by surgery and radiation after a second occurrence. She has been cancer-free for three years under the watchful eye of Jacobs.
“Everything about my experience has been perfection: the organization, the timing, the short wait, the pleasant demeanor of everybody—and it’s for those things and for those people that my gratitude goes with a full heart,” says Mindell.
Her gift allows Khouri, Jacobs and Sacks to use the funds as they see fit to further their research and education efforts, which include interventional breast procedures and tomosynthesis, methods to improve the awareness and care of melanoma patients, and ways to improve the body’s tolerance of donated tissue.
Today, Mindell travels, writes, volunteers and spends time with family and friends. She recently established three named charitable funds that can grow beyond her lifetime. They include the Mindell Family Fund in the Department of Surgery for Jacobs, the Mindell Family Fund in the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery for Sacks, and the Mindell Family Fund in the Russell H. Morgan Department of Radiology and Radiological Sciences for Khouri.
“It’s time to think of legacy to ensure that Johns Hopkins Medicine flourishes and continues its research, education and clinical service.”
To make a gift in support of the Johns Hopkins Department of Surgery, please Support Surgery & Surgical Sciences.