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Bob and Deb Pulver recognize the need for a women’s health center


Bob and Deb Pulver say they try to stay low-profile as much as possible, even though they donate their time and resources to several local organizations. But a series of family events led them to believe that they are now called upon to take the lead in developing a women’s health center, something they care deeply about.

“We’ve been kicking the idea around for a number of years about a center of excellence for women’s health,” Bob said. “After all, who, in this day and age, isn’t touched by breast cancer? Everyone seems to have a mom, an aunt, a sister who has battled it.”

Bob, who is on the board of directors of Iowa Health-Des Moines, said both his and Deb’s mothers battled breast cancer. Then, a year ago, Deb was also diagnosed and treated. The timing was ironic, he said, as they had just finished working with a couple of focus groups to discuss a women’s health center and how it could serve the community.

“We’re just getting to the point now where we’re ready to put the idea back on the front burner,” Bob said. “We got waylaid there for a little while, but once you get over the shock of it happening to you, the passion follows about wanting to do something about it.”

Deb said health issues have been important to them for the past several years. Both were active in Blank Children’s Hospital’s most recent capital improvements campaign in 2001, which raised $15 million.

“We give to a lot of things, but the substantial amount we give is to Blank and other health-related issues,” she said.

Through their fund-raising experience with Blank, the couple realized that the people of Des Moines also take health issues seriously, so they started thinking about another specialized facility, focusing on women.

“When Deb and I were involved with Blank to redo this hospital, it became apparent that this community is very supportive of health issues,” Bob said. “Just look at how we had 15,000 people participate in this year’s Walk for the Cure. I don’t think that building a women’s center is going to be very difficult. I think it’s a slam dunk.”

From her discussions with other women, Deb said that along with breast cancer prevention and treatment, the women’s health center could focus on a wide range of women’s issues, from holistic medicine to child care to hormone treatment. It would be a place where women could feel secure that they would get the best treatment, no matter what their need may be.

“We didn’t decide that we needed all women doctors,” she said. “We just want the people who are the best at what they’re doing and who care deeply about women’s health issues.”

From her own experience, Deb said she can see benefits, such as relationship-building, resulting from women being treated together at a facility designed specifically for them.

“It would be nice if you could go somewhere where it’s all women who have a common bond,” she said. “Women have a tendency, I think, to talk to each other a little bit more in a waiting room, and with a shared problem like breast cancer, you really need your sisters to help you get through all of this.”

Bob, who is president and CEO of All-State Industries Inc., a West Des Moines industrial rubber products manufacturer, said he doesn’t feel awkward about becoming an advocate for a women’s health center, adding that “if testicular cancer was as big a problem as breast cancer in this town, there would be a men’s center.”

“Do people say things to me? No, not once in talking about it have I ever had anyone look at me crooked and say anything derogatory,” he said. “If you have enough passion for something, people understand that it’s important to you.

“Health issues are meaningful to us. We have some tremendous health-care facilities in this town, such as Blank and the John Stoddard Cancer Center. We ought to allow ourselves to do some things to make it even better.”

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