Honoring Neil Andrews
with fund for endowed research chair

As Carla Andrews approached the end of high school in the 1950s, she saw two possible paths stretching before her: teaching and nursing. There may have been other career options for young women in Lima, Ohio, back then, but the guidance counselors hadn’t mentioned them.

Teaching held little appeal for Mrs. Andrews, the daughter of a railroad conductor. So nursing it was, and what a fortuitous life choice that turned out to be.

After graduating with her degree from the University of Cincinnati, Mrs. Andrews — then Carla Foster — joined the nursing staff at The Ohio State University. She worked for a time in orthopedics but switched gears and landed a job with Dr. Neil Andrews, chief of surgery at the affiliated Ohio Tuberculosis Hospital.

Her new boss was famous for developing a surgical procedure — later named the Andrews Technique — to treat tuberculous infections of the lungs. He also participated with the Central Oncology Group, a coalition that included several universities conducting clinical trials of early chemotherapy drugs. “I thoroughly loved that job, because we would see the patients in these early clinical trials every week and track them very carefully,” says Mrs. Andrews. “We had a very close-knit group, and it was very meaningful work.”

The experience also kindled in Mrs. Andrews a lifelong interest in cancer research — and connected her with the man who later became her husband. In 1969, she left Ohio for Los Angeles and worked for an oncology group there. When Neil Andrews moved west a year later to join the faculty of the new UC Davis School of Medicine, the two reconnected and married.

The marriage spanned 44 years, until Neil Andrews passed away in 2015, and for a long stretch the couple worked side by side. At UC Davis, the clinical trials in pursuit of effective cancer treatments continued. Neil Andrews served as chairman of the Division of Community and Post-graduate Medicine, as well.

The couple’s dedication to community health extended far beyond their day jobs. Gov. Ronald Reagan appointed Neil Andrews to chair the Governor’s Cancer Advisory Council, and he was also active in leadership of the American Cancer Society and California Medical Association throughout his life.

His wife’s immersion in philanthropy was just as intense, highlighted by leadership positions with the Yolo County Medical Society Auxiliary (three terms as president) and the California Medical Association Alliance. As president of the latter group in 1990, Mrs. Andrews focused on raising funds to support community health projects. In 1991, she was recognized with an award from the UC Davis School of Medicine for raising money to support scholarships for medical school students.

Given their interest in oncology and big-hearted approach to life, it seemed natural that the couple might be inclined to contribute financial support to cancer research. The Andrews have done just that, and then some.

The Andrews have been longstanding supporters of a variety of programs at UC Davis. In 1995, they began to set up a number of planned gifts that will result in the establishment of the Neil C. Andrews, M.D., and Carla F. Andrews Endowed Chair in Cancer Research at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“We believed it would be most helpful if the gift wasn’t restricted, because what’s important today might not be important in the future,” says Mrs. Andrews. “When I think of how things have changed in cancer treatment from the 1950s to today, it’s astonishing, so we did not want to place limits on the fund’s use.”

Keeman Wong, the cancer center’s executive director of development, commends their generosity and foresightedness to create an endowed chair that reaffirms the cancer center’s commitment to innovation and impact in cancer research.

“Dr. Andrews was truly a pioneer and stayed on the forefront of developing new cancer treatments with his work in clinical trials,” Wong says. “The gift that Dr. and Mrs. Andrews are providing the cancer center will pay tribute to their commitment to helping advance the most important priorities in cancer research.”

Mrs. Andrews is retired now, but she continues her volunteer work, loves to play golf and keeps close track of the latest research underway at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Asked about her philosophy with regard to philanthropy, Andrews says she has always been guided by a straightforward principle: “Every gift makes a difference, no matter how large or small.”

To learn how you can support cancer research, education and patient care, contact Keeman Wong at kmwong@ucdavis.edu or 916-734-9322.