Families, children and health care were always close to Vicki Randle Bee’s heart.
A gift from her husband, Alon Bee, and children, Blake Bee and Paige Bee Dodgen, will honor her memory by creating a private neonatal intensive care room in her name in the new pediatric expansion at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The amount of the gift is undisclosed.
Vicki, who was named Student of the Year in 1980 for the School of Nursing at UMMC, died in 2005 after a brief illness.
Starting her nursing career in the Medical Center’s NICU, Vicki went on to care for patients with special needs while raising a family.
She “embodied the spirit of nursing,” Alon said, “and she had a heart for children. Vicki would have been so excited about this expansion of children’s health care in Mississippi.”
The Bee family’s gift to the Campaign for Children’s of Mississippi will help fund the completion of the seven-story expansion, which will more than double the square-footage of the state’s only pediatric hospital.
The $180 million expansion will include 88 private neonatal intensive care rooms, as well as additional space for surgery and pediatric intensive care, an imaging center designed for children and an outpatient specialty clinic with a convenient parking garage.
Studies have shown that private NICU rooms where parents can help nurture their children result in better outcomes for babies and their families. Research from Cornell University published in the Journal of Intensive Care Medicine shows that babies heal faster and have shorter hospital stays when in private single-family rooms.
“Giving parents a place where their baby can heal and grow and where they can bond as a family is the best way we could remember Vicki,” Alon said. “She would be so happy to see babies having a place where they can get the best start in life.”
Babies in UMMC’s neonatal intensive care unit are the smallest and most seriously ill babies in the state. The current NICU was built for the care of 30 babies in an open bay, but nearly 100 babies receive care there. It is the state’s only Level IV NICU, the highest, most comprehensive level of care.
NICU medical director Dr. Mobolaji Famuyide said the Bee family’s gift will make a large difference for families whose children started life facing medical challenges.
“Research has shown that, when critically ill babies can be in a quieter environment with their families nearby, they gain more weight and experience less stress,” she said. “In this NICU room provided by the Bee family’s gift, so many babies will get the start they need to reach their full potential.”
Sanderson Farms CEO and board chairman Joe Sanderson Jr., who, with wife Kathy, chairs the Campaign for Children’s of Mississippi, thanked Alon for his family’s gift as well as for his work as a steering committee member.
“Alon’s insights and leadership in our committee have been invaluable in this philanthropic effort,” Sanderson said. “This expansion will mean better outcomes for Mississippi’s children and their families.”
Launched April 25, 2016, the campaign has raised more than $72 million to help complete the expansion, which is expected to open in fall 2020.
Alon, who serves on the campaign’s steering committee, is a faithful philanthropist to UMMC and the University of Mississippi, funding the Vicki Randle Bee Scholarship in the School of Nursing and an endowment benefiting the UM College of Liberal Arts.
Chosen as one of Mississippi’s top CEOs for 2017 by the Mississippi Business Journal, Alon is chairman of the Jackson Advisory Board at Regions Bank. Bee, who joined Regions in 1978, has held various management posts at the bank and now serves as consultant to Commercial Banking, Private Wealth and Trust. He serves as president and CEO of the Greater Jackson Chamber of Commerce and is on the advisory board of the Madison County Business League and the board of directors of the Mississippi Heritage Trust, which works to preserve historic structures around the state.
Giving back to the community is a value Alon and his children share. His son, Blake, is an attorney for the National Association of Attorneys General in Washington, D.C., focusing on consumer protection issues, and daughter Paige is a special education teacher at Water Valley Elementary School.
“Family and service to others has always been a core value throughout our lives,” Paige said. “Mom was such an example of the love and compassion it takes to care for those in medical need. When this opportunity came about, we couldn’t think of a better way to honor our mother and her service to others. What a legacy she leaves behind, and our prayer is that others will follow her example to help those that cannot help themselves.”
Blake said UMMC’s pediatric expansion fit the Bee family’s values perfectly.
“When I heard about UMMC’s expansion of its pediatric unit, I wanted to help it grow in any way possible, not only to help improve health care throughout Mississippi, but also because my mom worked in neonatology,” he said. “Mom loved being a nurse, especially in the neonatology unit where she could provide care to vulnerable newborns. My mom had a big heart and I know she would want her family to help UMMC expand its services to all those in need.”
To join in the Campaign for Children’s of Mississippi, visit growchildrens.org.
By Annie Oeth, UMMC Public Affairs