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Couple to Donate $27.5M to Bay Area Hospital

STANFORD, Calif. -- A Palo Alto, Calif., couple with deep Silicon Valley roots announced Friday they will donate $27.5 million to build a new state-of-the-art emergency room at Stanford Hospital.

Entrepreneur Marc Andreessen, 36, a co-founder of Netscape Communications, and his wife, Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, 37, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, said they have been discussing their first major philanthropic gift since the day they were engaged in 2006.

Using the couple s gift, Stanford Hospital will be able to double the size of its emergency room, fund new research programs and equip the facility with new technologies, including digital X-rays, ultrasound and cardiac monitors, according to a hospital statement.

Arrillaga-Andreessen, who grew up in Palo Alto, said, We wanted to do something that would have a profound impact on hopefully as many people as possible who are a part of this community or traveling through.

On their way to becoming one of Silicon Valley s pre-eminent power couples, Andreessen developed the first Internet browser, Mosaic, co-founded Netscape and more recently started the social networking platform Ning. Arrillaga-Andreessen, the daughter of real estate developer John Arrillaga, created and taught the first strategic philanthropy courses at Stanford s business school and founded SV2: Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund.

Dr. Paul Auerbach, director of special projects for emergency medicine at Stanford, said the gift will enable the emergency room to handle many more patients. The emergency room now gets so full it has to turn away ambulances and visitors, except trauma patients, for an hour or more.

Despite emergency s critical services and high profile, it is often underfunded, he said.

This is one of the very few significant gifts made to support emergency medicine anywhere in the country, Auerbach said.

Andreessen noted that the current facility was built in 1974 and does not incorporate much advanced technology.

They are still developing X-ray film by hand, whereas a state-of-the-art emergency room would use digital X-rays and get an instant result, he said.

Several programs will receive funding through the donation, including those related to wound care, heart attacks, stroke and disaster preparedness. Arrillaga-Andreessen said the couple hope the innovation generated at Stanford will become a resource and model for emergency services nationally.

The couple s gift also will fund the purchase of communication systems to allow doctors to track patients as they move through the emergency department, create new staffing programs to improve customer service, and allow nurses to follow up with discharged patients, expand the residency program and support prevention programs, such as Farewell to Falls, which helps seniors stay healthy.

Above and beyond the blocking and tackling we need to do, we ll be able to run a few fancy plays, Auerbach said.

Palo Alto city staff said Friday the donation does not appear to pose any conflicts in its review of the hospital s proposed expansion, but attorneys are still researching the matter.

I wouldn t expect any private donation to the campus or hospital to affect our review of the project, project manager Steven Turner said.

If the proposed expansion stays on track, hospital administrators expect to begin constructing the new facility in 2010.

E-mail Kristina Peterson at kpeterson@dailynewsgroup.com .

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