Note: This article first appeared in the Fall 2009 issue of Focus.
Dan and Debbie Edson of Traverse City live by the philosophy that those who’ve been given a lot should give a lot. It is part of what motivated them to make a $1 million donation to Munson Medical Center for a new non-invasive cardiology suite.
The Edsons’ lead gift kicks off fundraising for a $2.3 million project that will bring about the final step in consolidating all heart services at Munson into one location.
"We are truly grateful for the Edson family’s generosity," said Des Worthington, President and CEO of Munson Healthcare Regional Foundation. "It is a pleasure to facilitate gifts from a couple who cares so much about the community and enhancing health care."
"We started out as two college kids with no money," Debbie said. "People have always been helpful and kind to us - you can’t pay people back, but you can pay it forward, and we think that’s how we need to live. We’re honored that Munson can use the help in this way."
Dan is co-founder of American Proficiency Institute (API), the second largest lab testing company in the world, headquartered in Traverse City. He and a co-worker launched the company from his living room in 1990 when their employer, CAP Computer Center, relocated to Chicago. During API’s first year, Dan worked nights in the microbiology lab at Munson and also worked for a physician to help make ends meet. Today, API has 16,000 clients worldwide, including about 2,000 hospitals across the country.
Dan credits Munson with helping him launch his career in microbiology with a lab services internship in 1972-73. "That year of training jump-started my career and provided me with so much inspiration," he said. "I got so much encouragement from the pathologists who told me I could do anything and be anything."
In 1977, while pursuing a graduate degree at Michigan State University, Dan developed the first screening blood test for Legionnaire’s disease and assisted investigators in linking the disease to a hotel’s contaminated cooling reservoirs. Thirty years later, it is still among the work he is best known for, and one of the reasons he received the Michigan State University Distinguished Alumni Award. Dan also has co-authored nearly 30 scientific publications on laboratory quality assurance, including papers credited with increasing patient safety and saving U.S. hospitals nearly $50 million annually.
Munson Connections: A Grateful Patient
Over the years, Dan has developed friendships with numerous physicians who share his passion for bicycling. "I’ve just been fortunate to have them as friends. I’ve always been enveloped by the Munson family." Those relationships became even more important five years ago when Dan needed aortic valve replacement surgery at age 53. He was participating in the VASA in 2004 when he felt something was terribly wrong, but finished the race after his symptoms went away. Later, while bike riding in France with his family, he was alarmed that he couldn’t keep up.
Back home, an echocardiogram quickly revealed a severely damaged heart valve. "It was a very sobering moment," he said. Dan had successful valve replacement surgery at Munson and has regained his full athletic ability.
The Edsons have three adult children and a two-year-old grandson. Debbie works for the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District as a teacher consultant on a diagnostic team that supports student success
in local districts.
The Edsons previously supported Munson with gifts to the new Emergency Department, Munson Hospice, and the Smith Family Breast Health Center. "We’ve always talked about doing something major to leave a legacy," Dan said. "As the Heart Center was being completed, we learned that there was still a need to complete Non-Invasive Cardiology. This really was the right fit for us."