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Cancer survivor, cardiologist take their support to new heights

To help raise funds for the new patient pavilion, Dr. Brian Gross won an auction bid to climb the building’s crane. Young cancer survivor Cameron Caldwell joined him.

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Dr. Brian Gross climbs up the crane Friday.

Would you climb 172 feet for a good cause?

Brian Gross, MD, 72, a semi-retired Medford cardiologist, and Cameron Caldwell, a 20-year-old cancer survivor, did just that Friday when they climbed the bright red crane at Asante Rogue Regional’s pavilion project as part of an auction item Gross purchased at this year’s Oregon Wine Experience.

Dr. Gross wanted someone who’d been a former patient at the hospital to join him on the climb. “This kid is well-grounded,” Dr. Gross said of Cameron. “He’s met an awful conflict head-on and he’s mastered it.

“And I need someone strong enough to carry me up there if something happens,” he said with a laugh.

Family, friends and TV camera crews gathered at the top of the pavilion to watch Dr. Gross and Cameron climb the 16 ladders to the jib, which stretches 265 feet and offers 360-degree views of the valley below.

Once back on solid ground, Cameron said he was excited to be a part of a project highlighting Asante’s new women’s and children’s hospital-within-a-hospital planned on the top two floors.

“The views are cool, climbing up the crane is awesome,” he said. “But the fact that this pediatric unit is going to bring a good facility for kids going through a hard time, that just does it for me.”

“It’s the small things that matter, right?” he said. “You’re in there for five days and being able to look out and see the view from the sixth story, that’s going to be awesome for them. Just a little bit of happiness and brightness through the day.”

Dr. Gross, a runner, said climbing the crane’s narrow ladder from platform to platform was like running short wind sprints.

“It was a spectacular climb,” he said. “This place is going to be designed with all sorts of views to uplift your spirits, to make you think about, this is a fight worth fighting. This is a place where people are going to come and they’re going to get better.”

Dr. Gross said he bid on the package because it was so unique.

“This looked like it was going to be a great way to promote what we’re doing here: building the biggest medical facility for hundreds of miles. Anything I can do to do that, I’m all in favor of it.

“This is where people come when they need specialized care,” he said. “We get people from all over, we’ve got to have beds available.”

In addition to the women’s and children’s hospital, the 323,600-square-foot, $420 million pavilion will feature expanded critical care units, up-to-date operating suites and expanded cardiovascular services.

Construction began in November 2020, with the opening expected in fall 2023.

Cameron Caldwell’s mom, Debbie McCollam, and his younger brother Sage watched as Cameron and Dr. Brian Gross climbed 172 feet to the crane’s jib. The highest point of the crane: 205 feet.

Cameron was 17 when he learned he had osteosarcoma, or bone cancer. A year of chemotherapy and surgery was tough, he said, but “kind of rewarding at the same time. To get through it, know that I’m strong enough to get past it and do more.”

Cameron is a junior in pre-med at the Oregon Institute of Technology and plans to become an oncologist. Before his cancer, he wanted nothing to do with medicine “because it all grossed me out,” he said. But then he met Ellen Plummer, MD, an Asante pediatric oncologist, whose skill and caring spirit carried him through his treatment.

“Once I got into it and saw how much doctors can put an impact on a life of a patient, I was like, this is it. This has to be it,” Cameron said.

The Oregon Wine Experience raised $1.6 million this year and a total of $8.2 million for children’s care since Asante took over the annual wine event seven years ago. Asante Foundation has raised $33 million so far in a $50 million campaign to ensure up-to-date health care services for a nine-county region of 600,000 people over the next 20 years.

“We’re so humbled that people are coming together to make this happen for the greater good,” said Floyd Harmon, Asante Foundation executive director.

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1 Comment. Leave new

  • This is so inspiring. 🙂 Thank you, Dr. Gross, also for pointing out what a beautiful valley we live in here. We do! It’s gorgeous.
    The crane operator Shawn, states he makes that climb every single day…wow! And he said “It doesn’t make ya skinny either.” So funny.

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