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MU Celebrates $1 Million Pledge from Students to Women’s and Children’s Hospital

Feb. 12, 2015

Story Contact(s):
Nathan Hurst,, 573-882-6217

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Leaders from MizzouThon, a University of Missouri student-led philanthropic organization, have announced that the organization has signed a $1 million pledge to help fund the recent renovation of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the MU Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

“We view this pledge as a way of investing in the tiniest of patients,” said Sophie Lustman, executive director of MizzouThon and a freshman majoring in pre-health professions. “This is an effort to ensure a bright future for these infants and our world, as these kids will become our future leaders, educators, innovators and caregivers.”

With this donation, MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin and NICU Executive Director John Pardalos, have announced that the renovated hospital wing will be named the “MizzouThon Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.” Lustman anticipates fulfilling the pledge within five years.

“I have known that our students are special, but this commitment by a very dedicated group of student leaders has truly moved me,” MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin said. “Our students come to Mizzou so they can make a difference in the world. These students are proving you don’t need to wait until graduation; you can make a difference today. I’m extremely proud of them.”

The MU Children’s Hospital NICU team cares for more than 500 premature and critically ill infants each year, helping more babies to survive at early gestational ages. The NICU project is a $3.1 million addition.  The expansion adds 10 additional beds to the unit, bringing the total number of specialty beds to 48. The NICU includes:

  • 20 single-patient rooms
  • two lactation areas — giving new mothers private space for breast feeding
  • a family-infant room where families can stay overnight with their newborns to simulate how it might be once the newborn is at home and away from constant medical care
  • portable digital X-ray machine and developer

Each of the single patient rooms is equipped with “smart room” technology. A monitor near the child displays a 24-hour record of the baby’s vital signs, giving physicians and nurses immediate access to important information.

“Before, all of this information was in a paper chart, but now we can see how the child is doing from the moment we walk into the room,” said Pardalos, who also serves as medical director of the Division of Neonatology and Children’s Hospital Critical Care Transport Service and associate professor in the Department of Child Health at the MU School of Medicine. “This latest technology is more efficient and designed with the baby and family in mind. It also gives us the option to add even more automated capabilities in the future.”

MizzouThon was founded in 2008 and is the largest student-run philanthropy at MU. The student organization works year-round to provide financial and emotional support to pediatric patients in mid-Missouri. The group’s main fundraising event is a 13.1-hour dance marathon where participants are required to raise a minimum of $100 before attending. Last year, the event included more than 500 participants and raised more than $175,000. MizzouThon is part of Dance Marathon, a national organization with philanthropies at high schools and colleges across the U.S. This year’s MizzouThon will take place on March 14.