The Banner Health Foundation announced that Arizona homebuilder, businessman and philanthropist Mr. Ira A. Fulton has endowed the Ira A. Fulton Chair in Bariatric Surgery and Metabolic Disorders with a $2 million charitable gift to the Banner Health Foundation. This is the first endowed chair to be established at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix, part of the academic medical enterprise born from the 2015 merger of Banner Health and the University of Arizona Health Network. 

Robin P. Blackstone, MD, FACS, FASMBS, has been appointed the Fulton Chair. As Chief of Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix, Dr. Blackstone leads the multidisciplinary team at the Obesity and Bariatric Surgery Center. Dr. Blackstone has performed approximately 5,000 bariatric surgeries over 15 years since first establishing her practice, one of the first institutions in the United States to be recognized as a Center of Excellence by the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. 

In 2015, Dr. Blackstone moved her practice to Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix to integrate patient care, state-of-the-art research and teaching into the Diabetes and Endocrine Institute. The Institute is dedicated to combating the most complex chronic health conditions: diseases and disorders of the endocrine system, including obesity, with leading-edge, cost-effective and highly coordinated clinical care and scientific research.

Dr. Blackstone is the first woman to have served as President of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, the largest association in the world dedicated to the specialty. During her tenure as President, she helped to establish one standard for bariatric surgery: the Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program. In February 2015, Dr. Blackstone became a certified diplomat of the American Board of Obesity Medicine.

The Fulton Chair is the most thoughtful expression of gratitude to Dr. Blackstone, who, through her work, has improved the health and longevity of thousands of Arizonans—including Mr. Fulton, who came to her for bariatric surgery many years ago.

“Dr. Blackstone saved my life,” says Mr. Fulton, who struggled with obesity and its associated medical issues for many years before seeking treatment. “Because of her, I was able to go on with my life and business, and to be here today, able to give more money away to deserving programs and causes like this.” 

“I have been privileged to know and work with Ira for almost 16 years. He is a man who always tries to maximize his own efforts in regard to any project, including his own health,” recalls Dr. Blackstone. “Ira has lived a full life with the hallmarks of generosity and a true devotion to education. He has now translated that passion into the academic medical mission of Banner – University Medicine. This gift is going to allow us to not only provide excellent patient care, but to better understand the disease of obesity through the knowledge we gain as an academic medical center, and to have a positive impact on generations of people to come.”

“With the establishment of this endowed chair, we now see endless possibilities as Dr. Blackstone and her team expand and elevate Banner – University Medicine’s Center for Bariatrics and Metabolic Disorders to positively impact our most complex and vulnerable communities,” says Steve Narang, MD, CEO of Banner – University Medicine, Phoenix. “We are humbled and grateful to Mr. Ira Fulton for his confidence in Banner – University Medicine as we continue our journey every day to harness the power of academic medicine and its promise to change lives in Arizona and beyond.” 

Endowed chairs are one of the highest forms of recognition for physicians. These prestigious appointments help to attract, reward and retain distinguished faculty of national and international reputation. Mr. Fulton hopes his gift inspires others to support endowed chairs and other advancements in medicine in Arizona. Likewise, the Banner – University Medicine Division’s leadership hopes for the same kind of endowed chair for its many other Institutes and Centers specializing in Transplant, Digestive, Heart, Women’s, Lung, Neuroscience, Sleep Disorders, Endocrine, Orthopedic and Spine, Head and Neck, Trauma and Critical Care, Rehabilitation Wound and Reconstruction, and Urology.