Two physicians, a nurse and a patient advocate were honored during CURE®’s first ever Lung Cancer Heroes program.
Accomplishments that occur in the lung cancer space deserve to be celebrated because those developments are impacting lives, former NFL player Christ Draft said during CURE®’s inaugural Lung Cancer Heroes Program on Thursday night.
“The idea of celebrating the victories is not just that we are moving forward but recognizing that to be able to move forward there's a lot of people that put in work,” said Draft during his keynote speech.
“There are people that made choices, like my wife, that stood up and fought for those changes to happen so that when we celebrate this community, we have to be willing to celebrate the people that have taken an extra step. And they've got out in front to make things happen. And then also, at the same time, recognize that without them doing that, and without other people following, that, it's not going to change. So, it's not about just hoping it will change, but recognizing that there are people that we have to support, that we have to encourage, that are willing to go to work every day. And that's why we made the changes. That's why we have the progress, (it's) because of the people.”
Draft, who created the Team Draft initiative with his late wife Keasha during her year-long journey with stage 4 lung cancer to raise lung cancer awareness and increase research funding by debunking the misconception that lung cancer is just a disease of smokers, thanked all the recipients for their dedication.
“Thank you for your commitment,” he said to the heroes. “Team Draft was started with my wife's commitment, my wife's commitment to standing up. We know that's how things change, so thank you for being a part of the change. I know that we're moving forward. It's important with this celebration that we continue to let people know that we're not building off of something that is not moving, but something that is already accelerating. Hopefully, after this hero celebration that everyone feels a little bit better. They feel a little bit more excitement. But not just excitement, but because of all of you guys, they understand what is actually happening.”
During the inaugural virtual event, four individuals — two physicians, a nurse and a patient turned advocate — were awarded for their contributions to the lung cancer community. The program also recognized one Lifetime Achievement award winner.
A special Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to 16-year lung cancer survivor Bonnie J. Addario, who cofounded and serves as board chair of GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer, which is dedicated to saving, extending and improving the lives of those vulnerable, at risk and diagnosed with lung cancer. In 2004, Addario received a stage 3b lung cancer diagnosis and realized that education and support for people with the disease was needed. She and her family founded the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation in 2006 but merged with the Lung Cancer Alliance in 2019 to create GO2.Throughout her advocacy work, Addario has connected dozens of patients with the right connections to get them the best treatment possible and has served as a lifeline of support herself.
Addario acts as an adviser to industry leaders, clinicians and policy makers, and is a member of the Personalized Medicine Coalition board. In 2008, she founded the Addario Lung Cancer Medical Institute which powers collaborative initiatives in genetic (molecular) testing, therapeutic discoveries, targeted treatments and early detection of lung cancer.
“As I considered speaking to you all today, I wondered, how can I put 17 years of living and working in this realm of lung cancer into a 10-minute speech,” said Addario as she accepted her award. “It didn't take long for my answer to come to mind - it's about the patients. My mission and my greatest achievement have always been and always will be about bringing the patient voice to the table where they now firmly are, and permanently sit as it should be.”
Carolyn Baggett, a registered nurse and a lung cancer screening program coordinator at Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center in Jacksonville, Florida, was nominated by Bethany Webb who titled her essay “An Incredible Hero — With No Cape.” The two are connected through the American Lung Association, for which Baggett serves as a Cabinet member and Webb as North Florida development manager.
“In the words of one of Carolyn’s former patients, she’s the voice after the doctor leaves to make sure I fully understand everything,” explained Webb in her essay.
Baggett began her work as an oncology nurse navigator at Baptist Medical Center in 2014 working with patients who had stage 4 lung cancer but became motivated to develop a screening program in 2013 following a recommendation by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. “The lung cancer screening effort was really initiated and driven forward by Carolyn – practically single-handedly,” Baptist MD Anderson Medical Director, Dr. Bill Putnam, said in the nomination essay.
Initially created, in 2015 and since July 2020, the cancer center has completed almost 10,000 screenings at 10 locations. Nearly 130 lung cancers were found — almost 70% were early stage.
Compassionate, empathetic and dedicated — those are the words Paige Humble used to describe her nominee, Dr. Jennifer Garst, a thoracic medical oncologist and professor of medicine at Duke Cancer Center Raleigh in North Carolina. The two have worked together at the Lung Cancer Initiative (LCI) of North Carolina, which Garst helped found with a small grassroots group in 2008. Her work with LCI has been to ensure that the organization’s research program funds younger research fellows and investigators. She also supports programs such as one that provides gas cards to make sure patients can have access to care and treatment.
Having a keen interest in gender differences in lung cancer, Garst was also a founding member of the Women Against Lung Cancer, now known as the Lung Cancer Research Foundation.
“The impact of Dr. Jennifer Garst is known and felt across the lung cancer community in North Carolina and nationally,” Humble wrote. “Most importantly, however, is the way that she has individually impacted each of her patients through her thoughtful and steadfast pursuit of bringing the very best care and treatment options to them.”
Humble included a quote in her essay from Angela Nicholson, the wife of one of Garst’s patients. “My husband was diagnosed with stage 4 non-small cell adenocarcinoma lung cancer in June 2014. We were completely blind-sided by this news, and the next steps unfolded quickly,” Nicholson said. “… While we have not been successful in confirming the cause of his cancer, we have never felt that the treatment plan was not well thought out and intentional. The results speak for themselves: after four surgeries and two-and-a-half years of chemotherapy, we are blessed to report that my husband shows no evidence of disease. We could not be more thankful for the care and expertise that Dr. Garst provided.”
Dr. Fred R. Hirsch, executive director of the Center for Thoracic Oncology in The Tisch Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai and the Richard Stein, Joe Lowe and Louis Price Professor of Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, was recognized for his landmark scientific and organizational developments in lung cancer.
For more than 40 years, he has been instrumental in developing global collaborations, education and scientific exchanges through the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer, a global nonprofit organization. He has made contributions to therapy for small cell lung cancer — the more aggressive and fast-growing type of the disease — and in developing biomarkers for new targeted therapies in lung cancer, particularly EGFR.
Hirsch has contributed efforts to the National Cancer Institute, the Translational Medicine Committee in the SWOG Lung Cancer Group and the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
In addition, his nominator and colleague at the Icahn School of Medicine, Dr. Ramon Parsons, wrote in his nomination essay that, “… his care for patients has always been in the center and, as a cancer survivor himself, he will always have the patient care in the center. At Mount Sinai, Dr. Hirsch also plans to develop a lung cancer survivorship program in conjunction with the other cancer survivorship programs within TCI and is also leading development of survivorship programs for industry partners.”
Seven years ago, Deborah Pickworth’s life was forever changed. She learned she had stage 4 lung cancer at 43 years old — a disease that had taken both her mother and grandmother’s lives.
Pickworth has been tireless in her efforts to help other lung cancer survivors, raising money and trying to erase the stigma associated with the disease. She runs a lung cancer support group, is an Imerman Angels mentor and continues to advocate for herself and others in the lung cancer community. She is also a member of International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer and the American Lung Association’s Patient Advisory Group. “Team Pickworth” has raised more than $17,300 over the past six years as part of the annual Lung Force Walk in Detroit. She resides in Garden City, Michigan.
“On her arm, you’ll find a tattoo with a special message that reads, ‘I was given this life because I'm strong enough to handle it.’ Debbie’s true strength can be seen in the support and impact she makes for those diagnosed with lung cancer,” wrote her nominator Maureen Rovas.
Erik Lohrmann, Vice President of Oncology at CURE® Media Group, thanked everyone who attended the inaugural virtual event.
“MJH Life Sciences and CURE magazine, with support from Takeda, are honored to recognize five individuals who have dedicated their lives and careers to improving care for lung cancer patients,” said Lohrmann during the event. “To Takeda, on behalf of MJH Life Sciences, CURE, and our heroes, thank you for making (this event) possible. Lastly, our heroes. You’ve each gone above and beyond in your own unique way and are truly the embodiment of what the heroes award represents.”
Congratulations to Ross Miller and Clara Bailey on winning the visa gift card raffle after the event!