2016 NCCRT Annual Meeting Heroes
January 6th, 2017 :: Authors: The NCCRT Team
Happy new year everyone! As we embark on 2017, we want to take the time to reflect on highlights from NCCRT’s 2016 Annual Meeting, which took place last November. While collaborative work is at the core of our shared goal to reach 80% by 2018, there were three speakers in particular who reminded us of the remarkable power we as individuals have to save lives from colorectal cancer. Many of us have looked to these individuals for inspiration and leadership, and we see three leaders who are honest, humble and brave.Honesty. Sometimes in our lives, we hear something we need to hear, exactly when we need to hear it. That was the feeling in the room when Dr. Edward Partridge, MD, director, UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center of the University of Alabama at Birmingham spoke Thursday morning. Dr. Partridge, who has made social justice a cornerstone of his research, started his talk with a candid look at his own history growing up in the segregated South, culminating with his witness to the Freedom Marchers walking in one direction toward Selma, and the Klan headed toward Selma from the other. The weight of those challenges were in the room, as Dr. Partridge described his current work, serving the residents of the Mississippi Delta and Alabama Black Belt, where nearly two-thirds of African Americans live in poverty. Dr. Partridge inspired us all to look honestly at our challenges and at our past. It is only by looking at issues of trust, bias and power, can we move forward. Honesty.
Humility. Early the next day, Dr. Sidney Winawer, Paul Sherlock chair in medicine at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and American Cancer Society Medal of Honor recipient, was recognized with the NCCRT award for Distinguished National Leadership.
Dr. Winawer’s work on the National Polyp Study served as the catalyst for including colonoscopy in national screening recommendations, but perhaps equally important, Dr. Winawer set the tone for our efforts, acting as a true public servant, always putting the mission before his own self-regard. We all repeat Dr. Winawer’s words often, the best test is the one that gets done, and this simple statement is a gentle, constant reminder to us as a community to put aside competition, and work toward what is right. Humility.
Bravery. The meeting culminated with a heroic appearance from colon cancer survivor and Broadway actress Karen Walsh, who has turned her chemo treatments into opportunities for humor, creativity and awareness. She has undergone over 25 rounds of chemotherapy, each time photographed with friends in full costume embodying everyone from Princess Leia to Rosie the Riveter. As Ms. Walsh relayed, “It’s about changing the narrative of what’s actually happening and trying to transform that into something productive.” Ms. Walsh recently became NCCRT’s 80% by 2018 champion and received the American Cancer Society’s Mothers of the Year honor in October 2016, for using her platform to promote screening. She embodies why we do what we do. Ms. Walsh could have hidden her experience from the world. Instead, she pulls herself forward in an open and inspiring way, and thereby pulls us each forward, too. Bravery.
Each of these incredible leaders illustrate the power of what one person can do in the fight against colorectal cancer. We’re humbled by the incredible work that they’ve accomplished, and will reflect back on their stories for inspiration as we turn the corner toward 80% by 2018.
Happy new year from the NCCRT team!