Even as a Lowcountry native is set to take the top role at Shriners International in the next few years, the global organization has forged a new partnership with the Medical University of South Carolina.
Shriners International will offer its expertise to develop an expanded pediatric burn unit at MUSC's Shawn Jenkins Children's Hospital, slated to open in about a year.
Kenny Craven, a Summerville resident, is in his fifth year as a member on Shriners International and Shriners Hospitals for Children boards of directors, according to the Shriners website. He will serve as the chief executive officer of both arms in 2022.
Craven was also elected Imperial Oriental Guide, a position that helps govern the Shriners fraternity, this summer.
And this year, the 300,000-member Shriners organization has taken a special interest in South Carolina. Craven, the first person from the state to be elected CEO, told MUSC leadership at a recent Board of Trustees meeting that he has been urging the Shriners to consider the partnership with MUSC.
"I hope we can bring some exciting things back here to Charleston," he said.
Shriners Hospitals for Children brought in about $584 million in 2016. The organization also has a sizable endowment. There are 22 Shriners hospitals in North America, and one is in Greenville. The facility there provides specialty orthopedic care for children.
Part of Shriners reputation is in burn care, hence the collaboration with MUSC on the pediatric burn unit. MUSC announced a letter of intent with Shriners in February, saying the hospital was seeking their expertise in developing the burn unit.
There has been some debate over whether to reopen an adult burn unit in Charleston. Hundreds of South Carolina burn victims are airlifted every year to a burn unit in Augusta. Few Charleston-area patients a year need the services, The Post and Courier reported, but the cost of the helicopter can mean thousands for each patient.
But MUSC has a different, established center for children who suffer burns. They hope to expand those services with the opening of the new children's hospital next year.
"We are lucky to have a local person who is in the leadership at Shriners," Dr. Don Johnson, chairman of the MUSC Board of Trustees, said at a recent meeting.
In brief remarks to the trustees, Craven apologized to the MUSC leadership that the collaboration has been slow-moving. But he told them he hoped to be able to solidify details by the end of this year.
Next year should bring a more concrete plan, Craven said.