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The Marlo Thomas Interview (Page 2 of 4)

An Interview with Marlo Thomas

Marlo Thomas: Yes. It is a great campaign because it not only raises much needed funds, but, Gary, honest to God, the big thing is to get the information out there. So many families get death sentences from their local doctors for their kids; they need to know there is a place to go for help. I have met mothers who have told me that they were told their daughter had four months left to live, so take her home and photograph her so you will have memories. But in this hi tech age, parents have gotten smarter. They are not accepting the death sentences. They go on the Web to research their child’s disease and often St. Jude’s name pops  up and they contact us.

I met a father who told me he and his wife had already chosen the funeral music for their little girl before they found St. Jude. I remember asking one of our great physicians at St. Jude, “How is this possible that these other doctors are telling these parents that their kids are going to die, so go photograph them? How is it possible that they do not know that there is help somewhere else?” And he said something so stunning to me: “Everybody graduates from medical school. Some graduate at the top of the class and some graduate at the bottom of the class and they are all called Doctor.” I cannot tell you what that meant to me. It really empowered me. You see these diplomas hanging, but it does not say where they were in their class.

Gary Barg: How does a parent contact St. Jude?

Marlo Thomas: You should go to and search for the name of the disease that your child has and see what we are doing, see what our programs are, who our doctor is in that field. St. Jude patients are referred by a physician; we generally have a disease currently under study, so they are eligible for a current research protocol on clinical research trials. The great thing is when you call St. Jude, they will call you back. All the parents tell me, “I could not believe that the doctor that I read about on the Web site is the one who called me back.” We are in the business of saving children’s lives and helping families out, so there is not a lot of bureaucracy at St. Jude. Our only concern is saving children’s lives and helping families.

Gary Barg: How does St. Jude handle referrals?

Marlo Thomas: We do approximately 200 consults a month, even with people that do not come there—who just call up. Often we talk to their doctors to see what they are doing and if we can help that child. Because St. Jude takes on some of the toughest cases, the child and their family often come to St. Jude to be treated. Sometimes the child can stay in their home town and follow the St. Jude protocol. That’s because the research being done at St. Jude is freely sharedwith the scientific and medical community worldwide. But when a child does come to St. Jude, we pay for everything—travel, food, lodging and all the treatment at no cost to the family. Some people just move in—bring their four kids and move into Target House, Ronald McDonald House or Memphis Grizzlies House. We take the burden away from the parents so they don’t have to think about how they are going to pay for it all. All they have to do is focus on their child. My father meant it when he said we would not turn you away if you could not pay.  That was his promise. And we continue to keep his promise.

Gary Barg: Can you tell me a little about the programs for the parents and the siblings? That St. Jude also pays attention to the family really says it all for me.


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