A gift celebrating adventure, friendship and compassion | OHSU Foundation

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Abby Crumpacker Vieira was a world-famous hugger.

With her husband Robert and their three children, John, Annie and Henry, she sailed around the world with the Semester at Sea program, where she made a lasting impression on hundreds of students from across the globe. Her friends and family say she possessed a rare ability to make people feel seen, heard and loved. Abby passed away after a decades-long battle with cancer in August of 2021. In 2022, close family friends Dr. Bob and Margaret Basta made a gift in her honor, which will benefit the Department of Patient and Family Services program at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute.

“I wanted to give back to OHSU, my medical school. And Margaret and I wanted to give in Abby’s honor. She was such a special person to so many people.”

Bob Basta

Abby and her husband Robert Vieira, OHSU vice provost emeritus, met Bob Basta, M.D. ’71, and his wife Margaret in 2001 while at sea, where they accompanied 600 students on a round-the-world Semester at Sea voyage. Robert was the executive dean and Bob served as the ship’s physician, while Margaret served as the informal nurse. Abby worked as an all-around staff member wherever she was needed. The students called her “The Queen.” The two couples became fast friends, and would enjoy decades of shared adventures.

“Abby was an amazing, engaging and welcoming person. She didn’t care where you were from, what school you went to, or how much money you made. She was just interested in you. She was a strong advocate for the students, and a very special person for everyone on the voyage,” said Bob.  

Abby and Robert took their last Semester of Sea voyage in 2018, when Abby was being treated at the Knight Cancer Institute by Zahi Mitri, M.D., former program director for breast cancer at the Knight. At first they weren’t sure if Abby would be well enough to travel, but Mitri and his team made a plan to make it as comfortable as possible for Abby.

“Dr. Mitri worked with the physician on board to create a chemotherapy regimen that allowed Abby to sail around the world for three months,” said Robert. “Dr. Mitri meant a lot to Abby. I’m grateful for his help. It was our best voyage ever.”

After Abby’s death, the Bastas decided to make a gift in her name, in the form of a qualified charitable distribution.

“I wanted to give back to OHSU, my medical school. And Margaret and I wanted to give in Abby’s honor. She was such a special person to so many people,” said Bob.   

They directed their generosity to a program that reflected Abby’s warm, supportive nature: The Department of Patient and Family Services at the Knight provides services that ease the physical and emotional strain of being treated for cancer, including acupuncture and massage, education and support for patients and survivors, help with billing and care navigation issues, and resources for spiritual and social services.

“I was trained to help people as a physician. But over my career I could also see that the real difficulties were often social – people struggling to afford medications or arrange transportation. Patient and Family Services helps ease that stress,” said Bob.