Giving

News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Childhood Cancer Survivor...and Annihilator

Shantae ‘Shani’ Ockimey has always taken on the role of protector. When she came out of the surgery that amputated her right leg after an osteoscarcoma diagnosis at 9, the first thing she asked was, “How is everybody?”

Now a childhood cancer survivor and a patient of The LIVESTRONG™ Survivorship Center of Excellence’s Living Well After Childhood Cancer™ Program (LWAC) at the Abramson Cancer Center—a collaborative effort between Penn Medicine and CHOP that tailors individual health care plans to manage the short and long-term medical and psychosocial effects of cancer treatment— Shantae’s concern for the wellbeing of others has only gotten stronger.

Shantae, age 10, while undergoing chemotherapy
 “When I was diagnosed,” Shantae relays, “I said I want to find a cure for cancer.”

As a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) she is helping do just that—moving science forward by facilitating patient clinical trials. By ushering brave individuals through trials, she is making the future better and brighter while providing hope for cures: all behind the scenes.

Shantae's personal cancer journey and involvement with LWAC exposed her to the many facets of health care, driving her professional involvement with finding a cure. Throughout high school and college Shantae worked on retrospective chart reviews and data analysis for Richard B. Womer, MD, attending physician at CHOP and professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Womer, who specializes in sarcomas and medication and chemotherapy safety, was also Shantae’s childhood oncologist. Dr. Wormer and Shantae’s mentor in research Barbara Bayton, who was very instrumental in teaching Shantae how to coordinate clinical trials until her recent retirement, offered Shantae her first job out of college—and she has been at CHOP ever since.

Penn is leading the way in research that will benefit cancer survivors of all ages and types. Led by LIVESTRONG Survivorship Center of Excellence Program Director Linda A. Jacobs, PhD, RN, the Survivorship team consists of physician specialists, researchers, psychosocial and nutritional counselors, support services providers, a rehabilitation medicine physician, and an exercise physiologist.

“We empower patients to take control of their long-term health and well-being,” said Dr. Jacobs. “Our goal is to optimize patients’ quality of life. We are very successful in facilitating a very close relationship with oncologists and primary care doctors—so that new advances are immediately translated into the clinical environment.”

From doing research on such issues as bone loss, hot flashes, the impact of acupuncture, and lymphedema and cardiac problems that may develop following certain chemotherapy treatments, to helping patients cope with recurrence, genetics, insurance, and fertility issues, the LWAC provides survivors the tools they need to flourish after beating cancer.

Shantae (second to the right) with her sisters Janay, Tara, Tamara, and Dana and mom Carol (wearing scarf).
 And Shantae is doing just that. She is working towards a Master’s in Clinical Research, and plans on one day leading research projects at CHOP. As a patient of the LWAC Program at the Abramson Cancer Center, her care is no longer focused on cancer, but cancer’s long-term effect on her health.

“The Survivorship program has been source of guidance to the well being of my adult life after cancer. Dr. Jacobs and my team help me to think of my health in a long-term way, and deal with the adult issues resulting from surviving a childhood cancer,” Shantae explained. “I am so thankful it exists!” Because of her history, Shantae occasionally comes out from behind the scenes to speak with young patients with similar diagnosis to hers, or who are about to undergo an amputation, in order to help guide them.

“I remember the day of my surgery like it was yesterday. It is when I first cried over my diagnosis and when the magnitude of what was happening hit me,” Shantae recalled. “I love that I am able to use my life to help young people through similar experiences.”

She was also recently able to volunteer at Beyond Cancer, an annual event where families are able to reunite with fellow patients and staff.

“While everyone may not have had a personal cancer journey like mine that led them here, everyone appreciates the hardships that children and families go through with cancer,” Shantae explained of her co-workers.

“We are a tight knit group with a bond for one common goal: to help treat and cure cancers.”

The Living Well After Childhood Cancer™ Program is grateful for the generous support of the Rosato Family through the Sarah Marie Golf Invitational. The 11th annual golf outing will be held on September 29th at Sunnybrook Golf Club. Click here to learn more, attend, or support this important event.

To get more information about the survivorship program at Penn Call 1-800-789-PENN (7366) to be connected toll-free to our Living Well After Cancer™ Program.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ride To Conquer Cancer - Jim's Story, and His Tips for New Riders

As a competitive cyclist in the 70s, Jim Finkel rode alongside some of the best cyclists in the world. He didn’t know it at the time, but his constant challenges to go faster, work harder, go longer distances, and fuel his body with proper nutrition got him in shape for the greatest challenge of his life – cancer.

And, in a way, cycling saved his life.

“Towards the end of 2012 I was having trouble breathing, either on or off the bike,” says the 61-year-old mechanical engineer. “I was unable to clear my nostrils as I rode, and when over-the-counter medications and antibiotics didn’t work, we knew it was time to take the next step toward a proper diagnosis.”

After scopes and scans revealed a tumor in his nasal cavity, Jim began an 18-month journey to treat cancer that involved two surgeries, and radiation therapy. But he barely took a break from his bike. 

“When it was warm enough to ride outside, I immediately started to kick up my mileage while not pushing too hard,” says Jim. “Once I’d started radiation therapy, I was back up to doing at least four hours a week of saddle time on a bike.”

“Keeping my weight up during treatment was a challenge, but cycling actually helped. Though my sense of taste was dulled, I was used to getting calories back in to my body. I knew I had to eat and carefully match my calories in to calories burned, so I held weight throughout the process.”

Jim has joined the Abramson Cancer Center’s Ride to Conquer Cancer, a 150-mile ride that benefits cancer research at the Abramson Cancer Center. 

“I can’t say enough about the Abramson Cancer Center,” says Jim. “My surgeon Dr. O’Malley, my oncologist, Dr. Chip Staddon at Penn Medicine at Radnor, and Dr. Geoffrey Geiger at both the Valley Forge and the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine always put me as a person in front of me as a patient. I want my story to give others hope.”

You don’t have to be a competitive cyclist to join the ride, however. In fact, Jim shares these tips for those people riding the event who may not be seasoned cyclists.


  1. Get slick tires: Even if you are riding a mountain bike, swapping out the heavy tread for slick, thinner tires will help you maintain speed with less effort.
  2. Inflate your tires to their recommended levels: Again, this will be less work to ride.
  3. Proper fit: Regardless of the bike you ride, make sure it fits you. Take it to a bike shop and have a professional adjust your bike to you.
  4. Drink enough water: Jim loses about three pounds an hour during a ride. Make sure you rehydrate throughout the ride and at rest stops.
  5. Helmet: Always wear one!
  6. Know when to shift: It will make your riding easier.
  7. Get proper attire: Cycling shorts aren’t just nice, but necessary. Gloves can also act as a comfort measure; as well as protection should you fall off your bike.

The Ride to Conquer Cancer©

Join Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center (ACC) on October 11 to 12, 2014 in the Ride to Conquer Cancer© (RTCC)—an unforgettable and epic bike ride through Pennsylvania’s picturesque scenery -towards one life-changing destination: to cure cancer. The ride isn't just for cyclists, it's for anyone who wants to see a cure for cancer. 

At two-days and 150+ miles the RTCC will be a physical challenge—and an emotional and inspirational weekend—that will give you a chance to join forces with our physicians, patients, and families to leave everything on the bike course and raise serious funds and awareness in the ACC’s fight to cure cancer. 

The funds raised through the ride will be put to use immediately, powering the ACC's vision to eradicate cancer as a cause of human disease and suffering through precision medicine, novel research, next-generation therapies, and compassionate care. 

JOIN TODAY!

This event will be remarkable and will bring together communities of cancer survivors, cyclists, and their supporters with a common goal to conquer this disease. Join the ride in October by registering today at www.ridetovictory.org or by calling (844) 777-7433.

Before the ride, you will have access to:

  • Expert coaching
  • Training rides in your area
  • Personal web page for fundraising
  • Helpful manual
  • 2014 ride commemorative item

During the ride, participants will have access to:

  • Event-day ride jersey
  • Support along the route
  • Catered meals
  • Entertainment at camp
  • Massage and medical care

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Little Team for a Cure - Tasha's Ride to Conquer Cancer Story

Ride to Conquer Cancer Philadelphia
The LITTLE Team for a CURE. From left: Patrick Heringslack, Tasha Little, Howard Little.
"We're all living one life, we're all fighting to live. I feel it matters. I feel I need to contribute however I can. I was lucky and I have a will to live." – Tasha

Tasha Little was 42 years old when she learned she had breast cancer. She had no family history of breast cancer, exercised regularly, maintained a healthy diet, and was active with her two boys. But, she still found herself facing a cancer diagnosis.

“I’ve always believed in preventative care,” says Tasha. “When I learned the lump that showed up on a routine mammogram was breast cancer, I was completely overwhelmed.”

At the time she was diagnosed, she had just gone through a divorce, and found out she had cancer while moving from her home of 13 years following the split.

Fortunately, Tasha had time to research her options. She decided to get her cancer treatment at the Abramson Cancer Center.

“Getting the cancer out of my body was obviously important to me,” she says, “but so was reconstruction. When I met Drs. Tchou and Wu, I knew I was in the right place.”

Tasha was impressed with the way both the surgical oncologist and plastic surgeon collaborated as a team.

“My surgeons had a wonderful relationship with each other, and it made me feel comfortable to know they worked together so well,” she says.

Tasha had unilateral mastectomy (removal of one breast) and reconstruction at Penn. That was just over a year ago, and today, she’s giving back by participating in the inaugural Philadelphia Ride to Conquer Cancer® that benefits the Abramson Cancer Center.

“I heard the radio ads, and since I was an avid cyclist before I was diagnosed, I thought it would be a great way for me to get back in the saddle for a good cause,” says Tasha.

Tasha invited her dad, Howard, and her friend Patrick to join her on the ride. Riding with her dad has been a special experience, because her family had a big part in her recovery.

“I was raising two boys. My mother would take me to the hospital while my dad stayed at home and took care of the boys,” says Tasha. “This whole experience was a family effort, even though it was something I personally dealt with.”

"Parents who know what it is like to have a sick child know that no words can comfort the fear and anxiety and emotions you experience as a parent,” says Howard. “Even with a child in her 40s, it still feels like she’s your little baby and you just want to comfort and protect her. You have to have hope and positivity and know that doctors are doing as much as they can for you."

So far, “The LITTLE Team for a CURE has raised $4,811.00 and plans to meet their goal of $8,000.00 in time for the ride. "If you're an avid rider, it's about what you can do to help. If you've never rode before, it can be done. People are generous and if you're passionate people will support you,” says Tasha.

The Ride to Conquer Cancer®

Join Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center (ACC) on October 11 to 12, 2014 in the Ride to Conquer Cancer (RTCC)—an unforgettable and epic bike ride through Pennsylvania’s picturesque landscape -towards one life-changing destination: to cure cancer. The ride isn't just for cyclists, it's for anyone who wants to see a cure for cancer.

At two-days and 150+ miles the RTCC will be a physical challenge—and an emotional and inspirational weekend—that will give you a chance to ride side by side with physicians, patients and families--raising serious funds and awareness in the ACC’s fight to cure cancer.

The funds raised through the ride will be put to use immediately, powering the ACC's vision to eradicate cancer as a cause of human disease and suffering through precision medicine, novel research, next-generation therapies, and compassionate care.

Join Today

This event will be remarkable, bringing together communities of cancer survivors, cyclists, and their supporters with a common goal to conquer this disease. Join the ride in October by registering today at www.ridetovictory.org or by calling (844) 777-7433.

Before the ride, you will have access to:
  • Expert coaching
  • Training rides in your area
  • Personal web page for fundraising
  • Helpful manual
  • 2014 ride commemorative item
During the ride, participants will have access to:
  • Event-day ride jersey
  • Support along the route
  • Catered meals
  • Entertainment at camp
  • Massage and medical care

Monday, August 11, 2014

Back in the Saddle with Team Penn Vet for the Ride to Conquer Cancer

Ride to Conquer Cancer Philadelphia
When we think of cancer, we don’t always think of cancer in animals. But, for Sarah Rauers, administrative assistant, for the animal biology department at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, cancer in animals – and people – is always in her thoughts.

“At this point, I don’t think there is anyone who doesn’t know someone with, or who has had cancer,” says Sarah. “I’ve had family members, as well as pets, I’ve watched suffer through the disease.”

And that, says Sarah, is one of the things that has motivated her to join the Philadelphia Ride to Conquer Cancer this October.

“I went to an information session with my co-workers, and we decided to start a team together,” says Sarah. “There was so much energy and hope we saw within the ride and the research happening at Penn, we wanted to support the cause.”

Cancer Research at Penn Vet

Within the faculty at Penn Vet, there is a lot of research that focuses on cancer. “Penn Vet studies cancer biology in mice, dogs and larger animals – all part of a mission to pursue translational medicine,” says Sarah. “Breakthroughs in cancer research today made in research could someday can one day help conquer cancer in all species.”

The other motivation behind Sarah’s decision was a very personal one.

"A couple of years ago I was hit by a car while commuting on my bike to work,” she says. “I suffered a great deal of physical and emotional trauma from that experience. Getting back on my bike and participating in The Ride is a big milestone for me.”

As for her fundraising efforts, Sarah has been pleasantly surprised at the support she’s gotten from family and friends.

“Fundraising has been so much easier than I thought it would be. Shocked by the generosity of my friends and family, and ‘Facebook friends,’” she says. “If you are considering joining, just do it. For about three days after my team signed up we were concerned about what we got ourselves into but it’s going to be easier and more rewarding than any of us think!”

Check out more from Team Penn Vet here.

The Ride to Conquer Cancer®

Join Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center (ACC) on October 11 to 12, 2014 in the Ride to Conquer Cancer (RTCC)—an unforgettable and epic bike ride through Pennsylvania’s picturesque landscape -towards one life-changing destination: to cure cancer. The ride isn't just for cyclists, it's for anyone who wants to see a cure for cancer.

At two-days and 150+ miles the RTCC will be a physical challenge—and an emotional and inspirational weekend—that will give you a chance to ride side by side with physicians, patients and families--raising serious funds and awareness in the ACC’s fight to cure cancer.

The funds raised through the ride will be put to use immediately, powering the ACC's vision to eradicate cancer as a cause of human disease and suffering through precision medicine, novel research, next-generation therapies, and compassionate care.

Join Today

This event will be remarkable, bringing together communities of cancer survivors, cyclists, and their supporters with a common goal to conquer this disease. Join the ride in October by registering today at www.ridetovictory.org or by calling (844) 777-7433.

Before the ride, you will have access to:
  • Expert coaching
  • Training rides in your area
  • Personal web page for fundraising
  • Helpful manual
  • 2014 ride commemorative item
During the ride, participants will have access to:
  • Event-day ride jersey
  • Support along the route
  • Catered meals
  • Entertainment at camp
  • Massage and medical care

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Partners In Hope - Susan and Jeffrey Levitt

“Meeting the doctors and scientists focused on solving the mysteries of cancer has been incredibly inspiring and humbling. My wife and I are already proud Penn alumna, and couldn’t be more pleased to support the university that we both love, and the important work at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center that has the potential to change the world.” – Jeff Levitt, W’71, Partner in Hope, Chairman and Founder of Precyse Solutions, LLC

In October 2011, Jeff Levitt came to the Abramson Cancer Center to participate in a very special Abundant Treasures and Miraculous Discoveries: Solving the Mysteries of Cancer. Jeff is a member of the Philadelphia chapter of the World Presidents’ Organization (WPO) who partners each year with Penn Medicine to host a program highlighting innovative research and care initiatives. With deep connections to Penn and cancer, it was no mystery that Jeff would find himself attending this program. Jeff and his wife Susan Mazer Levitt attended Penn, both graduating in the Class of 1971, continuing a tradition set by Susan’s father. Their daughter, Kate, is also a proud Penn alumna of the Class of 2002. And Jeff is the Chairman and Founder of Precyse Solutions LLC, a company that is involved amongst other things with the gathering and abstracting of clinical data for cancer programs across the country.


Jeff was impressed with the passion and vision of top scientific and clinical faculty as they shared their advances in novel treatments for breast, melanoma, lung, and pancreatic cancers – never shying away from challenging diseases. He knew right away that he wanted to help support their efforts and after hearing from Dr. David Roth, Chair of Penn’s new Center for Personalized Diagnostics (CPD), he settled on a project to be part of.

“Personalized medicine is today’s science,” says Roth. “Every day I come to work thinking that today might be the day that we discover the genetic breakthrough we’re looking for to cure cancer. Philanthropy helps drive forward our discoveries at an even faster pace, and gives us the resources to explore so many different promising areas of personalized, effective cancer care.” With the help of Dr. Roth and others, Penn has the infrastructure to analyze cancer patients’ tumor for the gene, protein or molecule that makes it different. It is the gathering of this information that will allow doctors to understand fully what will help one patient versus another, improving not only outcomes, but also quality of life. For Penn Medicine it’s PERSONAL!

For the Levitt’s, it’s personal too! Jeff and Susan decided to give both their money and their time to help make a difference at the Abramson Cancer Center. As members of the Abramson Cancer Center Director’s Leadership Council, they are active volunteers and advocates. “We support a multitude of worthy organizations, but it’s been particularly fulfilling to give to Abramson,” shares Susan. Jeff continues, “It’s hard to calculate our return on investment for being part of an institution making such a profound difference in Philadelphia, especially when we read the stories of hope that they provide to so many people suffering from cancer in Philadelphia and around the world."

To make a gift, click here, or contact Evelyn Schwartz at evelynsz@upenn.edu or (215) 898-8625.

Monday, July 21, 2014

22 Outstanding Students Receive Donor-Funded Prizes at 2014 Graduation


This year, more students than ever received recognition and a financial token of appreciation through awards created by alumni, alumni families, and friends of the Perelman School of Medicine. Congratulations to our students for their achievements in academics, research, and patient care, and thank you to the generous donor families who made these honors possible. 


The 2014 Prizes and Winners

Nancy C. Bell, MD Memorial Prize in Dermatology: John Samuel Barbieri

Emily and Francis Botelho Prize for Excellence in Basic Science: Shaan Syed Khurshid

Sarle H. Cohen Award for Geriatric Medicine: Nina Wanning Zhao

James B. Couch, M’81 Prize: Alexander Li-Che Chin

Gertrude M. and Ezra M. Eisen Prize: Shaan Syed Khurshid

Jesse H. Frank, MD Prize in Pathology: Ellen Miriam Fraint

Theodore Friedmann Prize: Andrew Robert Fisher

Byron S. Hurwitz, MD, M’66 Memorial Prize: Keirnan Lovewell Willett

Peter H. Hutchinson, MD, M’06 and Rebecca N. Hutchinson, MD, M’06 Prize: Joseph John Ruzbarsky

Rose and Hershel Kanovsky Prize in Internal Medicine: Maria Ciocca Basil

Herbert and Faye Moskowitz Prize: Catherine Louise Auriemma and Austin Srinivas Kilaru

William G. Munns Memorial Prize: Daniel Caldwell Austin

The Gary M. Phillips, MD, C’87, WG’91, M’92, RES’97 and Helen Apostolou Phillips, C’87 Prize: Michael Elias Abboud

Dr. I. S. Ravdin Prize: Elizabeth Marie Sonnenberg

The David S. Seller, MD, M’22 and Robert H. Seller, MD, M’56 Prize for Excellence in Primary Care Diagnosis: Shaan Syed Khurshid

Dr. Ramon Sifre Prize for Excellence in Diagnostic Medicine: Austin Srinivas Kilaru

Russell J. Stumacher, MD Memorial Prize: Lauren Emily McCollum

Robert Suskind, C'59, M'63 and Leslie Lewinter-Suskind Prize in Global Health: Julie Anne Caplow

The J. George Teplick MD FACR Memorial Award: Dania Daye

Nikitas J. Zervanos, MD Prize in Family Medicine: Nathalie Claire Boittin and Lori A. Atkinson

Rare "Incision-less" Brain Surgery a Specialty at Pennsylvania Hospital

When 28 year-old Jonathon was too tired to go shopping with his wife, he had no idea what was about to follow. The Reading native had only been married for four months and all was going well. But that day, his arm suddenly cramped, he collapsed, and began having seizures. He was taken to Reading Hospital, where tests revealed an epidermoid cyst in his brain that was creating pressure and triggering the seizures.

Upon seeing that the tumor was in a challenging location, physicians in Reading recommended Pennsylvania Hospital neurosurgeon John Y.K. Lee, MD, medical director of the Penn Gamma Knife Center and assistant professor of Neurosurgery at the Perelman School of Medicine.
 
Dr. Lee is one of the few physicians in the country who specialize in removing brain tumors in difficult-to-access areas without performing a standard craniotomy. Instead, he operates via an "incision-less" brain technique using 3-D endoscopic techniques. His microscopic, minimally invasive techniques, offer patients like Jonathan less invasive treatment options with a shorter recovery time than traditional brain surgeries.
 
In partnership with Jason Newman, MD, director, Head & Neck Surgery at PAH and assistant professor of Otorhinolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery, Dr. Lee removed the benign brain tumor without cutting open Jonathan's skull.
 
The surgery took eight hours, in large part, because they used a rare, less-invasive approach through Jonathan's nose in order to preserve most of his sense of smell.
 
Jonathan recovered successfully and does not have any permanent scars from the procedure. His story was featured on 6ABC's  "Action News." To watch the segment and see Dr. Lee demonstrate the procedure, click here.
 
The research and training that goes into providing this level of advanced health care is supported by Friends like you. To learn more about Dr. Lee and his work, please contact Sarah Evans at (215) 746-3005, or saraheva@upenn.edu.