Giving in Action: John Helzberg

“Physicians see all kinds of inequities in medical care and it’s heartbreaking. But we can take care of some of those things." —John Helzberg, MD 

For John Helzberg, MD, giving is a family tradition. Shortly after World War II, his great-grandmother established a trust to help indigent Jewish refugees in the Kansas City area, who often had few financial resources or options to receive medical care. Later, the Auerbach Hirsch Fund was expanded to serve all indigent patients. As a trustee, Dr. Helzberg has made it a mission to continue the endowment’s original charitable mandate, making it a major donor to Saint Luke’s PATH Fund. That fund aids patients with financial need who require follow-up support after their hospital stay. 

As someone who provides direct patient care, Dr. Helzberg knows the difference that such support can make. 

“This is a passion of mine,” he says. “Physicians see all kinds of inequities in medical care and it’s heartbreaking. But we can take care of some of those things. That really has been the mainstay of what I’ve done.”

His contributions don’t stop there. In his 35 years at Saint Luke’s, specializing in gastroenterology and hepatology, Dr. Helzberg was instrumental in establishing the Saint Luke’s Hospital Liver Transplant Program. Having seen first-hand the positive results that come from furthering medical education and research, he has been a longtime personal donor to the hospital’s work in those areas.

Now, as a member of Saint Luke’s Foundation Board, he’s also involved with raising awareness among Saint Luke’s medical staff about the importance of supporting the hospital’s programs. “I’m very involved with getting physicians to realize that philanthropy benefits physicians, it benefits patients, and it benefits medical care,” he says. He also helps connect grateful patients to areas or programs within Saint Luke's that they wish to support. 

A guiding principle to Dr. Helzberg’s philanthropy is to offer help not only where it’s needed, but when. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and again during the stock market downturn in 2022, he responded to the urgent need for donations by increasing the regular gift from the Auerbach Hirsch Fund. He believed strongly that the money should not be saved, but spent to provide immediate relief. “I thought that was really important,” he says. “I wanted to give it now.” 

In 2020, Dr. Helzberg received Saint Luke’s Foundation Fellow Award, honoring his philanthropy and leadership, and his commitment to superior patient care. He truly helps make Saint Luke’s a better place.

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