Jugal and Manju Taneja were determined that something good would come from the death of their 44-year-old son, Mandeep Taneja.
That’s why the Taneja family, owners of a pharmaceutical firm in Largo, are the major financial donors behind a $256 million surgical and patient tower at Florida Hospital Tampa. The six-story, 300,000-square-foot expansion includes 24 new operating rooms, a new hospital entrance and more than 100 all-private dedicated surgical care beds. It will be named The Taneja Center for Innovative Surgery.
“Our son was in Florida Hospital for 10 months in the ICU. He was well-taken care of by the doctors and nurses, and we wanted to do something for the hospital because they took such good care of him,” Manju Taneja said.
The Tanejas hope the hospital expansion will attract highly specialized surgeons to treat local patients, so they don’t have to travel out of town for care.
The project broke ground earlier this month and is expected to open in 2021, bringing an estimated 117 new clinical jobs in the first year, and 587 new jobs by the fifth year.
Florida Hospital did not release the amount of the Taneja family’s gift but said it is the largest donation ever to Florida Hospital West Florida division. The West Florida division of Adventist Health — which is changing its name to AdventHealth — is a 1,810 bed health care system with 10 acute-care hospitals and other facilities.
The Tanejas have donated smaller amounts to other nonprofits, but have always done it anonymously until now, said Jugal Taneja, a health care industry veteran who is now managing member at Belcher Pharmaceuticals, a specialty pharmacy company in Largo.
“We’ve never put our name out there. That’s not our way. But this was big enough,” he said.
Benefit for others
Mandeep Taneja suffered from glioblastoma, a brain cancer.
“When my son was sick, we had to run around all over the country to find a surgeon who could perform on him,” Taneja said. “Several doctors said no.”
They eventually found Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, a neurosurgeon who was at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore and now is at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. Quinones-Hinojosa is a Mexican immigrant who climbed from poverty to become one of the top neurosurgeons in the United States, CNN reported.
Mandeep Taneja died in April, after a long illness. The family traveled to India to perform Indian rituals, and it was there that Jugal Taneja ran into a family friend. Taneja said he was depressed because of the death of his son, but the friend gave him courage.
“We just turned this in a positive way,” Jugal Taneja said.
“If our son could not live, there should be a benefit for others,” Manju Taneja said.
Jan Berry, executive director of Florida Hospital Tampa Foundation, introduced Taneja to Brian Adams, hospital president and CEO, and Taneja liked Adams’ ideas for the project.
“I had to do a lot of homework … I collected more information than [Adams] probably knows,” Taneja said.
One factor he considered was the personnel at Florida Hospital. “Any business I have made money has good people,” he said.
“Then, I had to convince the family that this gift would do what it is supposed to do … After that we told the lawyers to draw the papers,” he said.
“Our goal is to design a surgical tower that isn’t just relevant today, but will be relevant 30 years from now, combining surgical innovation and the most advanced robotic technologies with the nation’s best physicians,” Adams said.
See the gallery below for renderings of The Taneja Center for Innovative Surgery.
Florida Hospital Tampa
Quinones-Hinojosa, the neurosurgeon who treated Mandeep Taneja, asked Jugal Taneja why he was giving money to Florida Hospital.
“I said, ‘I live here, I cannot abandon this place. I know you have done a great job for us, but my loyalty goes to where I live,’” Taneja said. “I want people from Tampa to not have to go to Baltimore or other places. They should have something here. And those doctors need decent facilities.”
Florida Hospital Tampa currently receives over 2,000 patients a year who need advanced medical care they cannot get anywhere else, a news release said.
“We are currently performing advanced robotic surgeries at Florida Hospital Tampa, and this tower will allow us to have even more advanced technology and innovation, allowing us to create the best possible outcomes for patients,” said Dr. Allen Chudzinski, director of colon and rectal surgery at Florida Hospital Tampa. “As a surgeon, you look to be at a hospital that has the latest surgical technology and is preparing and shaping the future of surgery.”
Seeing the new facility take shape is “a dream come true,” Jugal Taneja said.
“We hope it might bring patients from all over here,” Manju Taneja said.
The Tanejas are not only family but co-workers.
Jugal Taneja previously was chairman of the former GeoPhama, a Largo company that manufactured and distributed dietary supplements, generic drugs and health and beauty products. Mandeep Taneja was vice president and general counsel at GeoPharma, and his brother, Mihir Taneja, was CEO.
Belcher Pharmaceuticals was spun out of GeoPharma, and both sons joined their father at the firm. The company has a 65,000-square-foot facility on Bryan Dairy Road, where it manufactures and packages eight drugs, including epinephrine, used for cardiopulmonary resuscitation; Cephalexin, an antibiotic; and Clarinex, a histamine used to treat allergies.
Jugal Taneja, who is 75 years old, said he goes into the office every day, from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; then goes home and plays with his grandchildren, including Mandeep’s three young children.