UI Hospital unveils new transplant unit, research center

Rhonda McCullough, wife of the late performer Bernie Mac

Nadera Sweiss (left), lead researcher in the sarcoidosis program, and Rhonda McCullough answer questions at the opening of the Bernie Mac Sarcoidosis Translational Advanced Research Center.
Photo: Joshua Clark/UIC Photo Services

The UI Hospital unveiled two new units last week that focus on healing patients with devastating chronic diseases: the Blood and Marrow Transplant Unit and the Bernie Mac Sarcoidosis Translational Advanced Research Center.

Damiano Rondelli, director of the blood and marrow transplant program at UI Hospital, and Jim Perry, co-founder and managing director of Madison Dearborn Partners, cut the ribbon on the hospital’s newly remodeled 10-bed Blood and Marrow Transplant Unit Oct. 4.

The renovation was funded in part by a donation from the Perry Family Foundation Gift Fund.

In addition to the transplant unit remodeling, the Perry family’s gift will support stem cell research and the Perry Family Assistance Program, an endowment for patients who cannot afford the co-payment for insurance or transplant drugs.

The Blood and Marrow Transplant Program has treated more than 600 patients with different types of cancer of the bone marrow, solid tumors, and blood disorders such as aplastic anemia and sickle cell anemia.

The program also conducts leading-edge translational research to improve the outcome of transplants.

Ribbon-cutting for blood and bone marrow transplant unit

Damiano Rondelli (left), director of the blood and marrow transplant program at UI Hospital, and Jim Perry, co-founder and managing director of Madison Dearborn Partners, open the unit. Photo: Joshua Clark/UIC Photo Services

Nadera Sweiss, associate professor of rheumatology and lead researcher in the sarcoidosis program at UI Health, joined Rhonda McCullough for the opening of the Bernie Mac Sarcoidosis Translational Advanced Research Center, or STAR Center.

McCullough, who was married to the performer and Chicago native for 30 years before his death in 2008, described working with the university hospital as “like a dream come true.”

The Bernie Mac Foundation launched a partnership with the hospital in April to collaborate on sarcoidosis research and treatment.

The cause of the disease is unknown but it often attacks multiple organs, particularly the lungs and lymph nodes, and disproportionately affects African Americans.