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“From a physician’s perspective, the community’s gifts have allowed the medical center to be cutting-edge.”

Pieces of the Puzzle

Retired Rheumatologist and His Wife Support St. Jude for Nearly Four Decades

“Rheumatology is a cognitive specialty, and it’s got a lot of esoteric diseases,” says Michael Sugarman, MD. “But if you ask the right questions, it’s kind of like figuring out a puzzle.”

From 1976 to the beginning of 2015, Dr. Sugarman solved countless diagnostic puzzles as a leading internist and rheumatologist in the Providence St. Jude Medical Center community. His attraction to medicine, meanwhile, is a family affair. His father, a cardiologist based in San Francisco, remained in private practice and covered the ER until he was 91, hanging up his stethoscope only when a broken hip necessitated his retirement. “My father loved practicing medicine,”
Dr. Sugarman remembers.

That passion — both for his career and his community — has inspired Dr. Sugarman to give back. He and his wife Hilda, an educator and longtime member of the Fullerton School District Board of Trustees, made their first gift to the Providence St. Jude Memorial Foundation in 1984. Since that time, they have made generous donations to the medical center and have personally raised funds to help acquire state-of-the-art technology.

“From a physician’s perspective, the community’s gifts have allowed the medical center to be cutting-edge,” recalls Dr. Sugarman. For example, he had an active role in helping to raise money for the first da Vinci surgical robot at Providence St. Jude Medical Center. “I brought the need to the Foundation because this was a technology of the future. Then, with the Foundation, I went out as a doctor and spoke about it. It just grew from there.”

Dr. Sugarman served twelve years on the medical center’s Board of Trustees and was president of St. Jude Heritage Medical Group for twenty years. He was instrumental in encouraging the group’s physicians to donate $1M toward the medical center’s Southwest Tower construction, and again with the Northwest Tower. Several of his patients have sought his advice and recommendations when making their own contributions for specific technology, including a bone density scanner and mammography equipment.

Of all the changes he helped bring to Providence St. Jude, Dr. Sugarman is most proud of his efforts to bring the Intensivist Program to the CCU. “I strongly advocated with the chief executive and the board,” he says. “Because I honestly felt that was the most important clinical advancement we could make to take care of the very sickest of the patients.”

In 2017, Dr. Sugarman was honored as a Physician of Legacy for his significant contributions to the medical center and his fellow physicians. He was also recognized in Best Doctors in America and as a Physician of Excellence. The administrative conference room at Providence St. Jude was renamed in his honor: The Sugarman Leadership Rheum.

“My husband’s mind is creative,” Hilda says with a smile. “His compassion for people is in his DNA. And people know it.”

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Call: 714-992-3033
Address: 100 W. Valencia Mesa Drive, Fullerton, CA 92835
Email: SJMF@providence.org

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