As a young man, Frank Dvorak had set his sights on a career in aviation. He was in his senior year at the Royal Military College of Canada when he received the life-changing diagnosis: type 1 diabetes. Because of his disease, he was grounded from flying. “It was awful news to get,” Frank recalls. “That was a really black time.”
Facing The Challenge
“I refused to let diabetes slow me down,” Frank says. He switched gears following graduation and enrolled in the University of British Columbia, where he studied for his master’s degree in mechanical engineering. That’s also where he met his future wife, Vivien, who was pursuing her bachelor’s degree in philosophy.
In 1967, Frank earned his PhD in aeronautical engineering from Cambridge University. The Dvoraks moved to the Seattle area, and Frank joined Boeing. He left a few years later to help form Flow Research (now Flow International) and then founded Analytical Methods, Inc., with Vivien serving as office manager.
The Promise Of A Cure
A long-time patient of Virginia Mason, Frank feels “very fortunate” regarding the care he’s received through the years. He has had diabetes for 53 years and began treatment by mixing his insulin and using a glass syringe with a stainless steel needle. Eventually he was able to use the insulin pump. Today he also uses a continuous blood glucose monitor that is being used in the BRI artificial pancreas study. “The next level of treatment will be some form of pump, continuous glucose monitor and computer combinations that will communicate with each other to form an artificial pancreas,” says Frank. “BRI’s study will go a long way in making this happen in the not too distant future.”
In 2008, he was introduced to the Benaroya Research Institute and its world-leading work. His interest and involvement in BRI deepened, and in 2011, he enthusiastically joined the board of directors. “BRI holds the promise of a cure for not only type 1 diabetes, but for all autoimmune diseases,” he says.
The Dvoraks recently extended their generous support of BRI with an estate gift to total $2 million. “The executive committee had been talking about creating chairs in specific research settings, and we really liked that idea,” Frank says. “BRI has done so many great things. We want to provide leadership by example.” The couple’s gift will establish the Frank and Vivien Dvorak Chair in Diabetes, funding BRI researchers in perpetuity.
Navigating The Future
In addition to a love for travel, Frank and Vivien are passionate about boating. Together they have cruised thousands of nautical miles. And for more than three decades, they have been proud and active members of the United States Power Squadrons, a non-profit organization focused on boating education.
“We’re big on volunteering,” Frank says. “Giving time is important.” Married 50 years in December 2013, the Dvoraks celebrated their golden wedding anniversary with friends on a Caribbean cruise.
While type 1 diabetes is a serious, chronic disease, “You can’t let it hold you back from what you want to do,” Vivien says. “You just have to work around it.”
Why The Dvoraks Give To BRI
- We want to encourage others to give and be leaders by example.
- We hope that funding through many sources will lead to a cure for type 1 diabetes as a result of the research of BRI and its partners.
Originally Published in BRING IT ON Newsletter - Sumer 2014
July 1, 2014
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