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October 31, 2003 - Image 56

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-10-31

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Cover Story

Love's Le c

Gift in wife's memory puts U-M medical school in forefront
of integrative medicine.




l hen Mark Kahn met Gayle Halperin
Spector, he says he immediately fell
into her eyes. "She had such remark-
able blue eyes. I knew I was home
when I saw her."
The couple, both divorced, were engaged four
months later and married the next year. They trav-
eled together and devoted time to getting to know
each other's children. Mark's son Alex is 17; his
daughter, Ilyssa is 23. Gail's son Matthew Spector is
9 and daughter Amanda Spector is 13.
Kahn knew from the start that Gail had had sur-
gery and treatment for a brain tumor detected when
she was pregnant with her daughter. But she had
been symptom-free for seven years.
Six weeks before their wedding, the cancerous
tumor reappeared, and Gayle began treatment. The
couple married May 16, 1997.
Their marriage, says Kahn of Bloomfield Hills,
was the beginning of an odyssey — not of sorrow,
but of great joy. "I waited all my life for a relation-
ship like this," he says.
"We enjoyed life every day while experiencing a
life-ending medical condition — which we

endured," he said.
He learned how to comfort his wife
when medical doctors could no longer
help her. After several surgeries,
chemotherapy and radiation treatments,
doctors told Kahn they could do nothing
more for Gayle.
"Her doctors told me to go home and
get ready," he says. "But I went home
and got busy.
Neither Kahn nor his wife would
give up.
He did research on alternative and
complementary medicine her doctors
were unwilling to acknowledge.
"There's no denying the role of tra-
ditional medicine," Kahn says.
But they had come to the end of
the line. Instead, Gayle received great
comfort from alternative treatments
that included massages, acupuncture, nutrition-
al and herbal supplements, and guided imagery (which,
through relaxation techniques, guides a person to an
inner safe place to face and overcome fear or chal-
In February 2002, after five years of marriage, with
family and close friends around her, Gayle died of
brain cancer.


Fitting Tribute

For months afterwards, Mark Kahn searched for the
kind of tribute that would best reflect his wife's
qualities and serve as a fitting legacy for her chil-
dren. He wanted to support a program that integrat-
ed the spiritual, natural healing aspects of the alter-
native treatments that gave Gayle comfort and hope
at the end of her life after traditional medicine had
nothing more to offer.
Traveling around the country, Kahn's journey ended
near home — at the University of Michigan in Ann
Arbor, his and Gayle's alma mater.
He came across an article in the Detroit Free Press
that the U-M medical school started one of the first
programs in the country in complementary and inte-
grative health. Thanks to two U-M doctors, the med-
ical school received the first two National Institutes of
Health grants for an alternative health program in a
medical school. The multidisciplinary approach pro-
vides educational programs throughout the campus,
including a class introducing alternative therapies to
students in the school of public health and a course in

tap Mark Kahn with his son Alex, 17, (top) and Gayle

Halperin. Kahn's son and daughter (bottom) Mathew
Spector, 9, and Amanda Spector, 13.



spiritual healing for social work students. It also com-
bines education with research and clinical studies.
The two NIH grant recipients for the complementa-
ry and alternative medicine research program are Dr.
Steven Bolling, a professor of cardiac surgery, and Dr.
Sara Warber, a professor of family practice who studied
herbal medicine for 14 years with an Indian medicine
woman in northern Michigan.
When Kahn met Dr. Warber, they started brain-
storming a fitting legacy for Kahn's wife. After meetings
with others, including U-M President Mary Sue
Coleman, a former biochemist and cancer researcher,
Kahn found the way.
Last month, U-M announced the Gayle Halperin
Kahn Professorship in Integrative Medicine, an
endowed fund created with Kahn's $2 million gift. The
position allows a professor to study and evaluate alter-
native, complementary and holistic healing techniques.
Kahn was the president of his family's industrial dis-
tribution company until several months ago, when he
sold his interest to his family to commit his time and
resources to other meaningful projects, he said.

Unique Doctors

The first recipient of the Halperin Kahn professorship is
Dr. Bolling. He has traveled twice a year for 14 years,
doing charity heart surgeries in Asia, Africa and India
for Project Hope. While operating in foreign countries,
he learned the benefits of non-Western medicine. This
year, he was in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand doing
mitral valve reconstruction surgeries, and he is helping
to establish the first hospital in Katmandu that will do
heart surgery.

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