Orr Fund for Faculty Excellence in Women’s Oncology
For nearly 40 years, James Orr, MD ’76, has practiced as a gynecologic oncologist. He currently serves as chief of surgical oncology for Genesis Care USA, which provides interdisciplinary cancer care, including radiation therapy and surgical oncology.
Orr, who lives with his wife, Vicki, in Bonita Springs, Fla., is proud of his bonds to the University of Virginia, where he got his start in medicine. “I’ve been so very tied to UVA since the very beginning. I was the first medical student to rotate with Dr. Peyton Taylor on the gynecologic oncology service at the University of Virginia in the early 1970s. Peyton was absolutely the role model for what I wanted to be – a caring, skilled multidisciplinary physician.”
Orr was the first member of his family to attend college and received his undergraduate degree, a BA in Psychology, from UVA in 1971. While not initially accepted into medical school, he reapplied and graduated from the UVA School of Medicine in 1976. He credits his University of Virginia education as the cornerstone for his career success.
“UVA jump started this. I still have my two UVA diplomas prominently displayed in my office. This institution opened the door and provided me the opportunity to attend a great school and offered me the tools to see future success,” Orr says. “I envisioned myself as a gynecologic oncologist very early in medical school. UVA encouraged me to have the vision and Peyton Taylor’s mentoring as well as the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology provided the springboard to a productive medical career.”
Grateful for this vision and the career that unfolded, Orr stayed involved with UVA as both a medical school class representative and a board member and chair of the UVA Health Foundation. In 2012, the Orrs decided to give back to the University of Virginia as part of their philanthropy. They established the James and Vicki Orr Endowed Award in Women’s Oncology in honor of Peyton T. Taylor, Jr., MD and in gratitude for his friendship and dedicated service to the University of Virginia Cancer Center and field of women’s oncology care and research. The fund was renamed the James and Vicki Orr Endowed Fellowship in Women’s Oncology when it reached $250,000 in 2019. With their recent additional $500,000 donation, today the Orr Fund for Faculty Excellence in Women’s Oncology supports graduate student clinical training and education. Ultimately, the Orrs plan to grow the gift to a funded chair position.
“Vicki and I have been truly blessed to have had productive careers,” Orr says. “We thought long and hard about what types of philanthropic opportunities there are in the world. There’s nothing more important than positively influencing those early in their medical faculty career, encouraging them to pay it forward while teaching medical students, residents and fellows.”
Although Vicki Orr is not a UVA graduate, Orr says that she has fully supported this philanthropic effort. “My wife is a former CFO of a major hospital system. Her mother succumbed to a recurrent gynecologic cancer and she has been extremely supportive to giving back to the University because she understands the importance of great care,” he says. “Not that you can’t get great care in a lot of places, but you can’t necessarily teach great care in a lot of places. Funding for education is really very near and dear to our hearts, for sure.”
Orr says they could have waited and made an estate gift but chose to give during their lifetimes in order to hopefully meet the individuals who benefited by their support, citing the impact of his own mentors. “I want to be able to talk to them and give them some feedback about why they are being supported. Because you want to live it forward,” he says. “When people ask me about this, I ask them, ‘What are you waiting for? Do it now and do it in a way that you’re comfortable or maybe even a little uncomfortable because you’re affecting not just tens of lives and not just hundreds of lives, but thousands of lives.’”
During his career, Orr has authored four textbooks and more than 150 papers. He is a frequent speaker at specialty conferences and has served as the president of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology, the Florida Society of Gynecologic Oncologists and The Florida Obstetric and Gynecologic Society among other roles and honors. For him, much of that success comes from his time and medical foundation formed early at UVA and he and Vicki are grateful to be even a small part of the success of today’s students and trainees.
“You will never regret any type of donation you make or any type of contribution when you’re making the kind of difference that can be made at the UVA Medical Center,” Orr says. “Vicki and I are honored and humbled to be part of the UVA family and we have found true joy in this gift. We both agree and understand that it is more blessed to give than to receive.”