By Michelle Flippin
"Sometimes you have to start where you don't want to be to end up where you want to be," says Risa Taub McDonald, a licensed clinical social worker with advanced certified hospice and palliative care accreditation.
Risa's desire to be with and help the patients at Texas Children's Hospital pushed her through unexpected turns on her journey, such as being assigned to serve at the hospital's soda fountain as a volunteer in the '60s and working in the food and beverage industry early in her career.
After pursuing a master's degree in social work and gaining experience in hospice and in-home care, she came full circle by serving high-risk leukemia patients as a clinical oncology social worker at Texas Children's Cancer Center from 2008-2011.
"Providing inpatient palliative and end-of-life care for pediatric oncology patients felt like a calling," said Risa. "I loved it." She was privileged to spend time with Joy Hesslegrave, Dr. Ernest Fruge and others involved in a 90-day palliative care team study that turned into an informal, ongoing palliative care effort at the Cancer Center. The vision for palliative care at the Cancer Center stayed with her even after she retired to spend time with her family.
When Risa and her husband, Sterling H. McDonald, started their estate planning, she saw a new way to fulfill her calling: a financial contribution that would sustain in perpetuity the Cancer Center's now formal palliative care program. Risa plans to leave an estate gift to Texas Children's through a charitable remainder unitrust. Her gift will support the Cancer Center's palliative care/end-of-life care team and establish the Risa Taub and Sterling McDonald Endowed Fund in honor of her mother, Mrs. John Ben (Marion) Taub.
Marion exemplified service to others and introduced Risa to Texas Children's through volunteer work. "She would very much smile upon, bless and be proud of this endeavor," said Risa.
Palliative care is the science of a medicine tailored to provide many kinds of symptom control—it's a holistic approach to making a difficult clinical situation better through comfort care; emotional, physical and spiritual support; and provision of education and resources for patients and families.
Risa knows personally what a wonderful gift the highly specialized, interdisciplinary service of palliative care is to families. She has witnessed the incredible service enhancement it provides and believes knowing what to expect can turn the loss of a loved one into an enriching, intimacy-promoting life experience for the patient, as well as their families.
Risa has given her time, talents and financial resources to fulfill her calling. She encourages others to follow their hearts about how they might make a difference in the lives of young patients at Texas Children's.
Please get in touch with Brena Baumann-Gonzalez, JD,, at 832-824-2718 or firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com if you have questions about how you can provide lasting support for Texas Children's through a gift in your will or trust.