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Southern Regional hosts gala this Saturday

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Where can one find tuxedos, whales, futuristic robots, and fine dining for a charitable cause, all in one place? At the Southern Regional Medical Center's 2008 Crescent Ball, which will take place this Saturday at the Georgia Aquarium.

A signature event for the hospital going into its tenth year, the ball is an effort to raise money to support the programs and growth of the medical center. This year, attendees will get a first-hand experience of the recent improvements and medical advancements at the hospital.

Andrea Mendez, development coordinator for the SRMC Foundation, the fund-raising arm of the hospital, said this will be the second time the event has been held at the Georgia Aquarium. Attendees will be able to experience the aquarium, enjoy food provided by Wolfgang Puck Catering, and participate in raffles for 50,000 Delta Sky Miles, a cruise for two to the Bahamas, a Big Green Egg Grill, and other prizes.

"The purpose of the gala is, first and foremost, to raise money for the Southern Regional Medical Center, but it is also to bring awareness to the wonderful things the hospital is doing," said Mendez. "It is definitely our signature event. It kind of brings the whole Southern Regional Medical Center family together in support of the hospital."

This year, the hospital will highlight its improvements, such as a $7.3 million overhaul of its operating facilities. In addition, Intuitive Surgical, Inc., will be on hand to give a demonstration of the da Vinci robot, the hospital's newest surgical tool, used to conduct cancer-removal surgeries more effectively.

While the robot has a $1.8 million price tag, staff from Intuitive Surgical, Inc., will allow attendees to man the robotic console and try the machine for themselves, Mendez said.

"I think its important to bring something that guests can see, hands on, and relate to, rather than just talking about it," Mendez said. "This year's event is definitely much more interactive. It is bringing a piece of the hospital to our guests."

She said she expects the gala to raise more than $130,000 for the hospital.

Melody Mena, managing director of surgical services, said the hospital has, in recent years, become "the anchor" of the Southern Crescent, in regards to trauma and surgical care. Those advances, however, would not be possible without the support of the community through events like the Crescent Ball, she said.

"In today's world, with health care dollars being squeezed tighter and tighter, we are expected to do more with a lot less," said Mena. "Without [fund-raising], the services we provide would never be possible. It's great health care, but great health care has to be supported by the community."

Mena said allowing attendees to try the da Vinci robot first hand will allow people to make a deeper connection to the hospital. "It's amazing, amazing technology, and it makes a night-and-day difference in our surgery," said Mena.

"When you can actually sit at the console and see what the surgeon would see ... it gives you a physical connection to what this really means for a patient. It's an eye opener as to why this is such an important thing for the Southern Crescent."

Tickets for the ball are $200 per person. To attend, contact the SRMC Foundation at (770) 991-8004, or visit www.southernregional.org/foundation/crescentball/2008.