The Place We Call Home: Nashville
Guest post by Jerome Jourquin, PhD, Scientific Grants Manager, Michelle Martin-Pozo, PhD, Manager, Scientific Grants, and Ami Patel, Research Project Manager.
On a cold but sunny Saturday in late October, the Volunteer State added a new color to its beautiful Autumn hues: pink. From Memphis in the West, to Knoxville in the East, Susan G. Komen Races for the Cure in Tennessee were about to start, celebrating breast cancer survivorship while also honoring those who lost their battle with the disease. Meanwhile, unknown to the several thousand gathered at the starting line, the participants and spectators to the Greater Nashville Race for the Cure were about to become part of a unique and never-before-accomplished milestone.
Like many other places in the country, Nashville is armed with dedicated Affiliate staff and passionate volunteers. It is also a city that we, Mission Team members Jerome Jourquin and Michelle Martin-Pozo, both proudly call home. Joined this year by our Mission colleague from DC, Ami Patel, we geared up to welcome Race participants and provide information about Komen’s Research Programs, while also partnering with the Affiliate staff and the local Race Committee to highlight Komen-funded scientists.
The idea emerged with the realization that, for the Mission team, Nashville is a special place; home to one of our Scientific Advisory Board members, Dr. Carlos Arteaga, one of our Komen Scholars , Dr. Jennifer Pietenpol, and some 36 funded researchers since 1995. Impressively, and without much of a plan in place yet, when most of the scientists were asked about their whereabouts around 6am on a more-than-likely freezing Saturday morning, they replied “That Saturday? I’ll be at the Komen Race!” Without even knowing that Greater Nashville provided stage time and VIP access to Race Village, they all agreed to be recognized as Komen-funded scientists at the Race. The only thing that they needed was reassurance that this recognition would not impact their ability to actually participate in the Race.
Therefore, on the brisk morning of Saturday, October 26th, in Brentwood, TN, and for the first time ever at our local Komen Race for the Cure, Komen-funded scientists climbed to the stage and made history. Members of the Mission team were able to present to the Middle Tennessee Community some of the great people whose cutting-edge research had been sponsored by Komen. Spanning from 2002 to 2013, we had representation across most of our research grant mechanisms: one Komen Scholar, two Investigator-Initiated Research, one Career Catalyst Research, two Postdoctoral Fellowships, and two Basic, Clinical and Translational Research grantees.
Drs. Justin Balko, Neil Bhola, Barbara Fingleton, Deborah Lannigan, Brian Lehmann, Ian Macara, Jennifer Pietenpol, and Fiona Yull even proudly wore a special race bib designed for them to be easily identified as a Komen scientist on the course. They all were eager to walk or run with their fellow Tennesseans, ready to engage them as to why they also feel passionate about Komen’s mission, both professionally and personally. And they ran! Among all other chip runners, both Drs. Lannigan and Macara finished first in their respective age category, while Dr. Bhola finished second in his. We know our scientists to be smart and dedicated to finding the cures, but their research is only one of the many talents that they have. We were simply thrilled to be there, alongside all the volunteers, spectators and Race participants, applauding and cheering on our Komen-funded scientists— for all they do for the breast cancer community. As Patty Harman, Executive Director of the Greater Nashville Komen Affiliate, told the audience, “One thing that is unique [with Susan G. Komen] is 25% of what we raise goes to national research and we will not find a cure if we do not participate in more research, research is vital for us to create a world without breast cancer.”
About the author
Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure®, we have invested more than $1.9 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.