MURRAY — After hearing Donna Herndon discuss the new $12 million Regional Cancer Center to be built at Murray-Calloway County Hospital, Dr. Jean Lorrah, retired professor from Murray State University, thought it provided a great way to give back to the community.
Dr. Lorrah taught as a professor in the English/Philosophy department of Murray State from 1968 to 2008. As she tells the story of how she got to Murray, “In the summer of 1968 I was finishing my dissertation at Florida State University while the world seemed to be crumbling. I was at job interviews hundreds of miles from both friends and family when Martin Luther King was assassinated, and a few weeks later when it was Robert F. Kennedy.
“But adding to my uncertainty was being a woman in a man’s world, for there were no gender equality laws in 1968. Twice, English Department chairs shook my hand and told me I was hired. When the promised contract did not arrive and I called to ask why, both chairs foisted it upon their secretaries to inform me that there was nothing wrong with my credentials, and I had definitely impressed them, but after my interview they interviewed an equally qualified male candidate—so ‘of course’ they had to hire him.”
Therefore, tired of spending as much time on her job search as on her academic work, Dr. Lorrah made a vow: “The first time someone with authority puts an actual contract in front of me, I’m signing it!”
Finally, she was invited to interview at Murray State, which was in the process of moving from college to university status. “What a difference!” she says. “People here acted as if they really wanted me. I met not only the department chair and the dean, but the new university president, Harry Sparks. People showed me around Murray and Calloway County, until we ended up in the president’s office, where he offered me—a contract! Local news people were there to photograph the event as we both signed it.
“Afterward other faculty took me to look for an apartment—another sign they wanted me here. I was the first female doctorate MSU hired outside the departments of nursing and home economics, but I was not the last. By the time I arrived in August, there was another in the English department, and more sprinkled throughout the faculty. Furthermore, the university put us right to work, not only in the classroom but on important committees across the campus.”
Dr. Lorrah settled into the community and fell in love with the small-town family feel. After a few years she began publishing novels, which she continues to do today.
Dr. Lorrah contributes to the community, supporting several organizations including the Humane Society and Needline, and has set up the Jean Lorrah English Literature Endowed Scholarship at Murray State University, as well as an Honors Scholarship to encourage students to study abroad. She also has a therapy cat and dog that she regularly takes to Spring Creek, Fern Terrace and MSU.
Dr. Lorrah has a personal interest in maintaining cancer care here in Murray. In 2001, she discovered a lump in her breast. The late Dr. Conrad Jones sent her for a mammogram, followed by ultrasound and a referral to Dr. James Dowdy for a biopsy that confirmed that it was cancer. Dr. Lorrah had lumpectomy surgery just two days later. She followed surgery with brachytherapy and then radiation therapy for four weeks at the Cancer Center under the direction of Dr. William Giese, oncologist, and Brett Miles, radiation therapist.
Following her battle with breast cancer, Dr. Lorrah began participating with other survivors as a part of the Breast Cancer Support Group.
“After my cancer experience, I understand how very important it is for the patient to have the support of others. Equally important are treatment options near home. Some people are physically and financially unable to travel for the daily treatments, while others have to keep working to maintain their insurance. Even though Murray-Calloway County Hospital is one of the smallest hospitals in Kentucky to offer such treatment, there’s certainly a need for it,” she said.
Dr. Lorrah’s donation of $20,000 to Enduring Hope in support of a new Regional Cancer Center will impact not only patients but all families in our region affected by cancer. It is essential that cancer treatment options continue right near home.
“It’s very important to keep this service going, and thus support more people using our community owned hospital into the future,” she said.
Herndon commented, “Dr. Lorrah has picked so many unique ways to give back and be a blessing to our community. We need others like her to join in our efforts to raise $6 million for a new Regional Cancer Center in Murray.”
Once construction begins on the new Regional Cancer Center, the project is expected to take 18 months and will consist of 17,388 square feet. The new facility will be conveniently located on the 1st Floor of the North Tower of the hospital. The main entrance will be located on Eighth Street across from the current ambulance building.
The MCCH Regional Cancer Center was awarded a three-year approval with commendation by the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons again this year, and has continually received the accreditation since 2005. This commendation represents the dedication and professionalism of the staff that provide patient care.
To find out more about the Enduring Hope campaign, contact Keith Travis at 270-762-1908 or visit www.murrayhospital.org/Endowment.