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Couple's gift to build neonatal care unit

Published Dec. 8, 2006

Three decades ago, Pam and Les Muma's newborn daughter, Jennifer, died in a neonatal nursery at Tampa General Hospital.

Complications had plagued the pregnancy, and doctors did what they could to save the child. But the technology of the day failed them, Pam Muma said.

"We're trying to make it possible for that not to reoccur," she said.

On Wednesday, the couple announced a $6-million gift to foster research at the University of South Florida and construct a state-of-the-art neonatal intensive care unit at TGH.

The donation, with an expected $5-million match from the state and a $3-million investment from USF, means a potential $14-million toward research and care for some of the Tampa Bay area's tiniest and most fragile patients.

"This is a spectacular day," said TGH president Ron Hytoff. "Parents of newborns should know they have no greater friends than Pam and Les Muma."

The multimillion-dollar gift enhances the partnership between TGH and USF Health.

At the hospital, the money will help build an expanded, updated neonatal intensive care unit to be named in honor of the Muma's late daughter.

At the university, it will provide money for an endowed chair of neonatal research and help attract talented researchers to study disease prevention and treatments for newborns. It also will aid construction of laboratories named for Lisa Muma Weitz, the couple's surviving daughter.

"It's just fabulous," USF president Judy Genshaft said Wednesday. "It's a gift for generations to come. A gift for generations of parents and their babies. A gift for generations of the nurses and doctors who care for them."

There are other neonatal intensive care units in the bay area, including at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa and at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.

The Mumas both attended USF.

Les Muma made his fortune as co-founder, president and chief executive of a financial technology firm, Fiserv Inc., based in Brookfield, near Milwaukee. There the couple stayed active in various philanthropic causes, including donations to the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.

After Les Muma's recent retirement, the couple returned to Florida for good. Les Muma serves on the board of the USF Foundation and has taken a lead role in the university's campaign to increase fundraising.

"Hopefully, our gift will set an example for more gifts," he said Wednesday.

Wednesday's gift thrilled and moved leaders and staff members at TGH and USF Health.

More than 150 people gathered in an auditorium at TGH for the occasion, and they gave the Mumas two standing ovations. Someone handed Genshaft tissues when her eyes filled with tears. Hytoff couldn't stop smiling.

Deana Nelson, TGH's executive vice president for patient services, showed off plans for the new unit, which will be twice the size of the current one and much more accommodating for families.

"It's going to be a wonderful thing," she said.

Nelson promised the Mumas that the hospital would build the "mack daddy" of neonatal intensive care units.

Stephen Klasko, dean of the USF College of Medicine, looks forward to that day. He said a cutting-edge unit, coupled with new resources at the university, will help the Tampa Bay area become a destination for some of the country's finest neonatal researchers and pediatric students.

Much work remains to turn the Mumas' vision into reality, he said. But he promised it would happen.

"Pardon the pun," Klasko said. "But I promise, we will deliver."

Brady Dennis can be reached at or (813)2263386.


The gift

$6-million: amount given by Pam and Les Muma

$5-million: amount eligible for a state match

$3-million: amount pledged by USF

What it will helpfund

Research - an endowed chair of neonatal research at USF; a team of researchers to study developmental genetics, prevention of neonatal disease, brain development and other issues

Facilities - an expanded, state-of-the-art neonatal intensive care unit at TGH; core labratories at the USF-Health campus