Former Fresno State footballer gives generously to Dan Brown Legacy Fund

Brian Panish sees himself as a champion for the underdog, as the guy who will help even the playing field for those in need. The southern California attorney took on that role first in the 1970s playing defense on the Fresno State football team, then later fighting in the courtroom for victims of personal injury and product liability cases, and most recently by helping those in the Fresno area afflicted with brain, spine and nerve damage or disease.

In honor of former Bulldog football coach Dan Brown, who was a good friend, Panish has given $50,000 to the Dan Brown Legacy Fund to support the Central California Neuroscience Institute at Community Regional Medical Center. His gift brings the fund up to $155,000, more than 60% of the way to the $250,000 goal by the end of the college football season, said Vincent Ricchiuti, leader of the Encore Group which is spearheading the legacy fund effort.

“We’re always fighting for the underdog in this firm. That’s all we do. And in a way Fresno is treated as an underdog too. Fresno should have the top medical facility,” said Panish, who is best known for a $4.9 billion award he won against General Motors (GM). The award – at the time, the largest personal injury and product liability verdict in U.S. history – went to a family that was badly burned when the gas tank in their GM SUV exploded in a rear-end crash. That case brought Panish up to Community Regional’s burn unit where his clients were flown for treatment after hospitals near the crash couldn’t treat all the victims.

“I think it’s very important for people to have something there in Fresno for treatment,” Panish said. “Dan Brown was one of my best friends. He would have to travel to San Francisco and back for his treatment. I know one of the treatments he was able to get in Fresno and it made it so much easier on him and his family. Fresno is a large enough metropolitan area that it ought to have this kind of institute.”

Panish and Ricchuiti, former assistant director of football operations at Fresno State, were both with Brown in March 2009 the day he died of brain cancer. Brown, who coached 12 seasons at Fresno State, the last seven as defensive coordinator, was 50 and left behind a wife, six children and four grandchildren.

Ricchuiti recounted that he and Brown would meet up with Panish for Rose Bowl games before the coach got cancer. “Our relationship grew even stronger when Brownie got sick,” said Ricchuiti. “Panish doesn’t even live here...but I’m sure he probably feels the same way Coach (Pat) Hill does when he says, ‘Why not have the best here in Fresno. This hospital is proving that.’”

The Central California Neuroscience Institute is a collaboration of Community Regional, UCSF Fresno and private physicians and includes a team of experts providing top-notch care to patients’ throughout the state. It is the only teaching, research and treatment institute for complex neurological conditions in the Valley, and offers prevention, diagnosis, management and treatment for stroke, brain tumors, dementia, epilepsy, Parkinson’s Disease and more. Because of significant expertise in these specialties, the Institute has received a center of excellence designation, and is supported by some of the world's most advanced technology.

For more information or to make a gift to the Central California Neuroscience Institute call Community Medical Foundation at (559) 459-2670.

This story was reported by Erin Kennedy. She can be reached at medwatchtoday@communitymedical.org.