Munson Medical Center Unveils New Name for Comprehensive Stroke Center Thanks to $2.5-Million Gift

Munson Medical Center Unveils New Name for Comprehensive Stroke Center Thanks to $2.5-Million Gift

Munson Medical Center (MMC) today unveiled a new name for its comprehensive stroke center — The Witham Family Comprehensive Stroke Center — thanks to a $2.5-million donation from Richard and Marilyn Witham and their children, Chris Witham and wife Stephanie, and Kurt Witham.  

The family gathered with Munson leaders and medical staff for a ceremony outside the stroke recovery center to showcase the new signage.

"This is a momentous day for Munson and our entire community,” said Ed Ness, Munson president and chief executive officer. “The generous donation from the Witham family not only signifies their passion for giving back to northern Michigan but also exemplifies the transformative impact philanthropy can have on our ability to serve patients. Their story is a powerful reminder of why Munson is committed to providing exceptional care to the people and communities we serve."

For the Witham family, this was a true full-circle moment.

Richard (“Dick”) and Marilyn Witham reside in Leelanau County part-time. In early 2019, Dick had a stroke while working outdoors on his northern Michigan vineyard. He lost the use of his right arm and hand and called his grandson, who immediately took him to Munson Medical Center for emergency care.

"From the moment I arrived at Munson Medical Center, I was impressed by the expertise and compassion of the medical team. You never think something like this will happen until you’re in the middle of it,” said Dick Witham. “My family and I are incredibly grateful that this level of care was available nearby – otherwise my story could have been very different. Munson is an invaluable asset to northern Michigan.”

After Dick’s experience, the Witham family began working with Munson Healthcare Foundations to give back. During a tour of the stroke unit at MMC, the Witham family discovered that one of Dick’s former companies, Motion Dynamics (now run by his son Chris), produces the springs used by MMC doctors in clot removal procedures.

“It’s truly remarkable how small the world is and how interconnected we all are,” said Gary B. Rajah, MD, surgical director for the stroke center. “A device component manufactured in west Michigan is utilized by neurovascular surgeons at MMC — and worldwide — to prevent death and disability due to stroke. With over 1,300 stroke patients treated last year alone, every resource we have is vital in our mission to provide the best possible care to our patients.”

Dr. Rajah performed northern Michigan’s first endovascular stroke intervention in August 2020.  He now leads the stroke center alongside its medical director David P. Rosenbaum-HaLevi, MD.

In December, the Joint Commission certified MMC as a Comprehensive Stroke Center, placing it among just 221 hospitals in the United States and one of 12 in Michigan. The certification is the most demanding designation process in the country for stroke and designed for hospitals that have specific abilities to receive and treat the most complex stroke cases. It is the first-ever comprehensive stroke center in northern Michigan.

The Witham family’s $2.5-million donation will help further support the stroke center’s technology and staffing needs as it continues to grow.

"The Witham family's generous donation not only supports the immediate needs of the stroke center but also establishes a lasting legacy of giving that will benefit generations to come,” said Debra Henderson, president for Munson Healthcare Foundations and chief development officer for Munson Healthcare. “This $2.5-million gift brings the total raised through philanthropy for stroke care to $6.8 million. We are deeply grateful to our donors for their commitment to advancing healthcare in our region. We hope the Witham family’s philanthropy inspires others to join us in this important work."

Learn more about the Witham Family Comprehensive Stroke Center at Munson at