Pink Zone luncheon and game honors clinicians and researchers

Author: Gene Stowe


“Docs in Pink,” a Pink Zone Luncheon sponsored by the College of Science in collaboration with the Notre Dame women’s basketball team and two South Bend physicians, brought together researchers, doctors, nurses and cancer survivors to build relationships and raise money for the fight against cancer.

Anne Thompson, a 1979 graduate of Notre Dame and member of the Board of Trustees gave the keynote address. Thompson, chief environmental affairs correspondent for NBC News, is a breast cancer survivor approaching her fifth cancer-free year. “Here at Notre Dame, my spiritual home, I have found something else that helps me fight this disease, and that is community,” Thompson told the crowd in the Purcell Pavilion ahead of the Feb. 12 Notre Dame-Rutgers basketball game, where pink-shirted cancer researchers were honored.

She discovered that breast cancer had affected many of her colleagues who worked on a book to celebrate the 35th anniversary of coeducation at Notre Dame and the 90th birthday of Rev. Theodore Hesburgh. “I am a cancer survivor, and I humbly stand on your shoulders,” she told researchers in the room. “For those of us who are sick, we are busy living with cancer, not dying from it.”


Sharon Stack, the Anne F. Dunne and Elizabeth Riley Science Director of the Mike and Josie Harper Cancer Research Institute, Dominic O. Vachon, Director of the Ruth M. Hillebrand Center for Compassionate Care, also spoke to the group. Stack urged more cooperation on innovative and integrative multidisciplinary research on the causes and consequences of cancer.

Vachon described how Ruth Hillebrand, who died of cancer in 1994 received her diagnosis in a late-night phone call from a doctor who then hung up. “Like the Hillebrands, we are here today to turn this suffering into compassion,” he said. “The caring way we provide treatment makes a major difference in how people cope with this challenge and even in how they recover from it.”

Provost Thomas G. Burish, who has been a member of the American Cancer Society National Board of Directors, recognized the cancer clinicians at the event. “While our focus is cancer, may our legacy be life,” he said. Dr. James P. Kelly, president of Cardio Thoracic Surgery, and Dr. Rafat Ansari, president of Michiana Hematology Oncology and Medical Director of Oncology Services at Memorial Hospital, recognized the researchers. “We are winning on this disease,” Ansari said. “Most of the benefit has come from early diagnosis.”

The luncheon raised money for people not otherwise able to pay for diagnostic services. Dean Gregory Crawford, who hosted the event, reported that a 24-hour Spin-a-Thon at Knollwood Country Club, another collaboration involving the College of Science and the women’s basketball team, raised $30,000.

Courtney Rauch, an undergraduate majoring in applied and computational mathematics and statistics who has been diagnosed with a rare type of breast cancer, gave the invocation. Cancer survivor Joan Lennon of the Women’s Task Force-Foundation of St. Joseph Regional Medical Center gave the benediction.