Inspired by a young cancer patient, Tula Vlahakis Mouroufas honors the passing of her daughter and husband with $1.5 million donation to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Tula Vlahakis Mouroufas was born in a small village overlooking Sparta in Anavriti, Southern Greece. The youngest of six siblings, she moved to America at age 11, settling first with her mother in New York, and then venturing west to California as a young bride. She has remained deeply connected to her Greek roots.
A love of travel landed Tula in a public relations position at Alitalia Airlines and later, at United Airlines. While at United, she met her husband, Chris Mouroufas, a prominent political fundraiser in San Francisco.
In 1971, they adopted Angela, a beautiful, two-month-old girl. Angela grew to be an active child who loved soccer, swimming, and skiing. No one, least of all her parents, ever suspected that she had a serious health issue. But at age 15, Angela died suddenly from an undiagnosed heart arrhythmia. Tula and Chris returned to Greece six months later, this time bringing their young nephew, also named Chris, back to the States, where he has remained ever since.
“Chris was a wonderful addition to our family at a very difficult time,” Tula says. “We later adopted him, and he is now a talented, up-and-coming artist in San Francisco!”
When her husband passed away from prostate cancer in 1995, Tula reflected on a meaningful way to celebrate the lives of Chris and their daughter. Maxine Papadakis, MD, a close friend and former associate dean for student affairs at the School of Medicine, introduced her to UCSF (University of California San Francisco).
While touring the new San Francisco campus, Tula was moved by the sight of a young cancer patient ringing a bell near the nurses’ station. The brass clanging joyfully signaled the end of her chemotherapy.
“My heart was so touched when I saw the pure happiness on her face as the bell was ringing,” Tula recounts. “Children are very dear to my heart. I’ve always wanted to do something to ease their suffering. I knew then what I wanted to do.”
Inspired by her visit, Tula made a generous gift of $1.5 million to name the waiting room on the first floor of the hospital in memory of her husband and daughter. In addition, she committed to leave a bequest to establish the Tula Mouroufas Endowed Professorship in Pediatrics.
“We are so fortunate and grateful to have a friend in Tula Mouroufas,” says Michael Anderson, MD, MBA, FAAP, President of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals and Senior Vice President of UCSF Health Children’s Services. “She deeply understands the suffering of children with serious illnesses and the toll that takes on their loved ones. Her support will help advance the mission of UCSF Children’s Health to provide the best possible pediatric clinical care for our community.”
“UCSF has a wonderful reputation for being number-one in research and clinical care,” says Tula. “I never had a moment of hesitation in having my family’s legacy associated with UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco, because our children deserve the very best. If one child can be saved as a result of my giving, then I’ve done my job.”
Email the author: Frosene Phillips