URBANA — A $15 million gift from Flex-N-Gate Corp. owner Shahid Khan and his family to the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine is expected to transform the oncology program at the college’s veterinary teaching hospital.
The Khan family, which also includes Khan’s wife, Ann Margaret Khan, and the couple’s children, Tony and Shanna Khan, all UI graduates, is making the donation in recognition of “the extraordinary level of care provided to pets with cancer and their families through the oncology service,” according to the UI.
Both the Khans’ dogs, Louie and Shanelle, were treated for cancer at the teaching hospital.
The Khan family gift was announced Thursday, along with an internal match of another $15 million being made by UI Urbana-Champaign to expand the teaching hospital’s cancer care facilities with a new wing expected to open in 2025.
The Khan gift combined with the matching university gift are the largest single gift the Illinois veterinary college has ever received, officials said.
The new wing will include new oncology exam and treatment rooms, a new dedicated entrance for oncology clients and space devoted to cancer clinical trials, according to the UI.
The money being given by the Khan family will help “dramatically” increase the number of veterinary oncology experts and caregivers — including more nursing staff — according to the UI.
Three new endowed faculty chairs will be created — for an oncologic surgeon, a medical oncologist focused on patient care and a medical oncologist focused on translational medicine to advance cancer treatments.
“We want to do all we can to ensure that the remarkable service and care we enjoyed at the veterinary teaching hospital is accessible to everyone and their pets,” Shahid Khan said in a statement released by the university.
“As important, whether it’s to teach or study veterinary medicine, we want to attract the best and brightest to the University of Illinois,” Khan said. “The opportunity to support the mission of the oncology program at our vet med school is a privilege for our entire family, Louie and Shanelle included.”
UI veterinary oncologist Dr. Laura Garrett, who heads the oncology service at the hospital and oversees the care of the two Khan family dogs, said Louie, a Boston terrier mix, has been treated for three different types of tumors and “is in remission for all of them.”
She first saw Louie in 2017 and Shanelle, a French bulldog mix, in 2018 for a benign tumor and again last year to treat a malignant tumor, she said.
The impact if the Khans’ gift and internal UI investment “will be huge,” Garrett said.
Both the oncology faculty and spaces for treatment and teaching are too small for the volume of patients being seen and the teaching and research being done, she said.
“Our group has done some relatively significant work with a skeleton crew,” Garrett said.
With the gift, the oncology faculty can grow from four to nine, and ultimately will include two oncologic surgeons, two radiation oncologists and five medical oncologists, she said.
She looks for the additional funding to also greatly improve resident training, she said.
The teaching hospital’s oncology service cared for more than 1,300 animal patients, mostly dogs and cats, last year, according to the UI.
UI Chancellor Robert Jones said Shahid and Ann Khan “have always had a deep understanding of the direct connection between our university’s missions and the lives and well-being of those we serve.”
“Cancer may be the most terrifying word in our language,” he said. “And when it comes to a member of our family, and our companion animals are certainly family, we all just want to find the most skilled people with the very best facilities who can treat those we love.”