a special program of the National Emergency Medicine Association (NEMA)

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Week: 599.6 Pt. 2 

Guest: Lewis Brantley, CEO, Shriner’s Hospitals for Children 

Topic: Shriner’s Hospitals 75th Anniversary 

Host/Producer: Steve Girard 

NEMA: Thanks for staying with us...our second story today has to do with an organization that does us good by making us laugh and serving our communities, and especially by running a system of hospitals designed around the needs of children with very difficult conditions and injuries. They are the Shriners, and this year the hospitals celebrate 75 years of service to children. Our guest is President of the board of directors of Shriners’ Hospitals, Lewis Brantley... 

BRANTLEY: 75 years ago, there was constructed a single hospital in Shreveport, Louisiana called Shriner’s Hospital for Crippled Children. At that time there was a great deal of crippling diseases scattered throughout our country, and of course, children bore the brunt of those diseases. Shriners’ felt that through their resources and their compassion, they felt the need to take care of those crippled children. And they created the hospital. Just two years ago, we changed the name of Shriner’s Hospital for Crippled Children to just Shriner’s Hospital for Children...more descriptive of the medical services we provide today. We still provide the orthopedic care, we do provide emergency burn care and reconstructive surgery for burn injuries. We provide spinal cord injury care and a great deal of research in the all the Shriner’s Hospital system. 

NEMA: Where are the hospitals? 

BRANTLEY: We have 22 hospitals throughout North America. One is located in Mexico City, one in Canada, one on the island of Hawaii, and the others are located in the mainland United States. The one thing that makes Shriner’s unique is that we do not charge the patient, we do not charge the patient’s family, we do not accept U.S. government dollars...at the federal, state or local levels. And we do not accept insurance in our hospitals, it’s wholly free of charge to children who are in need. And if I might...I’d like to encourage the listening audience, if you know of a child that needs orthopedic, expert medical care or burn reconstructive care or burn emergency care, please call the 800 number. It is 1-800-237-5055 for expert, free medical care. 

NEMA: How does that happen...we all know the tremendous expense associated with hospital care...how do the Shriner’s come up with that kind of money? 

BRANTLEY: This past year, the budget was in excess of 425 million dollars. That is 1.16 million dollars plus per day that is spent to on children’s health care....that largest single expenditure for children’s health care in the United States. It is raised...and how we get the money is through 3 sources: One, every Shriner, when he pays his dues, also pays an assessment that is earmarked for the operation of the hospitals. In addition to that, the second source of income is that our 191 chapters throughout North America, we call them 191 temples, also have fund raising activities during the course of the year...such as paper sales. And those funds, in most part, are dedicated to the operation of the hospitals. In addition to that, over the years, the public out there...because of the work we do...the public has been very generous to us. And we have turned that into an endowment fund...so the income from that endowment fund goes toward the operation of Shriner’s Hospitals for Children.  

NEMA: Ahhhh....but all this serious talk...when people know the Shriners from just about every big time parade they’ve ever seen. Entertainment is part of the picture, too... 

BRANTLEY: There are two side to Shriners. There is the serious and philanthropic side...with the operation of the 22 hospitals, and then at the local level...with the chapters or the temples if you will, there’s the fun side. That’s the fraternity side. And that’s where you see the guys with those funny little hats - we call them fezzes - and it seems that we get the biggest guys in the world that we can possibly find and put them into he smallest possible car...and they just look funny in these parades, and we frolic around and we have fun. But what that does is bring the public’s attention to the fact that the Shriners are out there, the Shriners are community people, and as a result of that activity they know the good work we do at the Shriners' Hospital for Children, and they’re kind enough to support us there.  

NEMA: You don’t have a telethon....something a little different than the rest of the crowd, I’m guessing....in keeping with the surprising nature of the Shriners... 

BRANTLEY: One feature thing that we’re doing this year in celebration of our 75th anniversary, and it’s real exciting to us...it’s called an Un-telethon. It is an hour long television program that was filmed down at Disneyworld, and put together by our public relations department...and it was hosted by Peter Graves and Pat Morita, two outstanding people. And what a lot of people don’t know is that Pat Morita was a patient at Shriner’s Hospital when he was a child for about 8 or 9 years...and they are just wonderful people to do that for us. We had some really notable people make guest appearances on that ‘Un-telethon’, such as former President Gerald Ford, Michael Jordan - one of the most popular people in the world today, I guess. Sandy Duncan, Burt Reynolds, Ray Stevens, Judy Collins, Ronnie Milsap, Loni Anderson, Roy Clark, Ernie Borgine...just to name a few of them. And the reason we called it an ‘Un-telethon’ was that we did not solicit anything, and we are not asking for pledges there. That film is scheduled in the various TV audiences where we have hospitals or where we have shrine temples. 

NEMA: How else can folks find out about the Shriners and your hospitals and their services? 

BRANTLEY: If they know of a child that needs orthopedic care, or burn care or spinal cord injury care....if they would please call 1-800-237-5055 for absolutely free, expert medical care for that child. (More of the same here) 

NEMA: Our thanks to Lewis Brantley, President of the board of directors of the Shriner’s Hospital for Children.   

Thanks for joining us for today’s program. If you have any comments or suggestions, contact this station. Or visit our home page at: www.nemahealth.org/...for a look at transcripts of this or past programs, or to find out more about the National Emergency Medicine Association. I’m Steve Girard at The Heart of the Matter.