On February 14th, I have the honor of joining Coach Agnes Berenato and the University of Pittsburgh Panthers women's basketball team as a guest coach. While I could claim I've been invited because of my skills on the basketball court, I will actually be joining these remarkable women for the annual "Pink the Pete" game, which raises money for breast cancer research and honors breast cancer survivors, as well as those who have lost their lives from the disease. In order to "Pink Out" the Petersen Events Center, everyone attending the game is encouraged to wear the color pink.
On the surface, events like "Pink the Pete" are fun and easy ways to help raise breast cancer awareness, but to assume that is all they do belies much of their importance. "Pink the Pete" and events like it bring together the cancer community — a community formed by cancer patients, cancer survivors, people who have lost a family or friend to the disease, cancer caregivers, cancer researchers. In truth, the cancer community encompasses all of us, in one way or another.
A theme that we return to again and again at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and UPMC CancerCenter is the power of partnership — partnership between members of the health care team and patients and their families, partnership between laboratory and clinical researchers, partnership between researchers and donors, and partnership between the cancer institute and community advocates. All of these partnerships are essential to our continued success in the fight against cancer, but this month I wish to recognize the power of the last partnership. Through strength and determination, cancer advocacy groups raise awareness for both common and rare forms of the disease, create communities that bring together those touched by cancer, and advocate for and raise money for research and care.
On a national scale, the power and success of such advocacy groups has been astounding. As just one example from my own field, The Susan G. Komen for a Cure began when one woman made a commitment to her dying sister that she would do everything in her power to find a cure for the disease; she created one of the world's largest grassroots cancer organizations that has committed over 1.5 billion dollars so far to breast cancer research and education. So many other organizations have devoted themselves with equal passion to other areas — the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, the LUNGevity Foundation, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation and the Colon Cancer Foundation all work to raise awareness on behalf of patients and support cancer research, just to name a few.
I am so fortunate to lead a cancer institute in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania whose citizens have such a strong dedication to cancer prevention, education, and outreach. The depth of our community support, from the college students who volunteer at the Hillman Cancer Center to the remarkable number of individuals who fundraise on behalf of UPCI and UPMC CancerCenter, is truly remarkable. Advocacy can take many different forms, from a national organization supporting innovative cancer research to a community event like "Pink the Pete." In all of its forms, advocacy is a powerful tool in our continued quest to raise awareness and improve the prevention, detection, and treatment of cancer in its many forms. All of us at UPCI and UPMC CancerCenter are proud to partner with such an engaged community.