Karmanos Cancer Institute honors inspirational individuals and organizations with its 2013 Heroes of Breast Cancer Awards

Oct 29, 2013, 20:30 ET from Karmanos Cancer Institute

DETROIT, Oct. 29, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Since 1995, the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute has celebrated National Breast Cancer Awareness Month by recognizing individuals and organizations for raising awareness of breast cancer through education, research and the promotion of early detection, treatment and survivorship. Continuing this tradition, the Karmanos Cancer Institute presented its 19th Annual Heroes of Breast Cancer Awards on Oct. 29. More than 200 guests attended the event at the Max M. Fisher Music Center. Radio and television personality Ann Delisi, host of "Ann Delisi's Essential Music" on WDET 101.9 FM, served as emcee. Guests were entertained by members of the Detroit Symphony Civic Jazz Ensembles as well as local songwriter Steve Acho, one of the evening's awardees.

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"It's a privilege to recognize this year's Heroes and all they have done to help save lives," said Gerold Bepler, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO, Karmanos Cancer Institute. "Tonight's awardees are certainly worthy of this honor for educating our community, for advocating and raising funds to help advance cancer research and access to care; and they do so with compassion, enthusiasm, determination – even through music. Please, don't stop.

"I promise you, our dedicated team at Karmanos won't stop either. We are inspired by all that has been done by our Heroes just as we are inspired by our patients who fuel our relentless commitment to end this disease. Their fight is our fight and we will remain vigilant in our mission to eradicate cancer."

Maureen Keenan Meldrum, director, Breast Cancer Special Programs at Karmanos and chair of the Susan G. Komen Detroit Race for the Cure® added, "We recognize our Heroes one evening during this special month but their commitment to this cause and their service to others will last far beyond October. We celebrate their accomplishments, and remember and honor those who lost their battle.

"We have made tremendous progress, with breast cancer death rates decreasing in the United States since 1990, and with three million breast cancer survivors in the United States. Yet, as long as there are women and men being diagnosed with late-stage disease due to lack of awareness, access to screening, resources and care, we must continue to work together so that all people have the best chance of surviving this disease. Together, we can and will make a difference"

For more information about breast cancer services call 1-800-KARMANOS (1-800-527-6266) or go to www.karmanos.org.   

About the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute
Located in mid-town Detroit, Michigan, the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute is one of 41 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Caring for more than 6,000 new patients annually on a budget of $260 million, conducting more than 700 cancer-specific scientific investigation programs and clinical trials, Karmanos is among the nation's best cancer centers. Through the commitment of 1,000 staff, including nearly 300 physicians and researchers on faculty at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, and supported by thousands of volunteer and financial donors, Karmanos strives to prevent, detect and eradicate all forms of cancer. Its long-term partnership with the WSU School of Medicine enhances the collaboration of critical research and academics related to cancer care. Gerold Bepler, M.D., Ph.D., is the Institute's president and chief executive officer. For more information call 1-800-KARMANOS (1-800-527-6266) or go to www.karmanos.org.

Below is a list of the 2013 Heroes of Breast Cancer Awardees.

Karmanos Cancer Institute's 2013 Heroes of Breast Cancer Awardees

In recognition of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute presented its 19th Annual Heroes of Breast Cancer Awards on Oct. 29. The awards honor individuals and organizations that have distinguished themselves by educating people about breast cancer, conducting breast cancer research, and promoting breast cancer awareness through early detection, treatment and survivorship. The following awards were given at this year's event.

For helping to bring about a society that now encourages people to speak out about their illness, where funding for breast cancer research is improving each year, and a society where more and more people are learning about breast cancer.

  • State Representative Gail Haines (R- 43rd District, Oakland County) and State Senator Roger Kahn, M.D. (R-Saginaw Township

Currently, many health plans do not cover oral anti-cancer medications at the same level as intravenous treatments given in a doctor's office or hospital. State Representative Gail Haines and State Senator Roger Kahn co-authored Oral Chemotherapy Access legislation that will allow Michigan to join many other states ensuring that patients have access to all anti-cancer medications, regardless of how they are administered. This common-sense legislation will make a dramatic difference in the lives of cancer patients.

"I am very thankful and honored to be receiving the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute Heroes of Breast Cancer Leadership Award. This organization does extraordinary work for the health and well-being of our communities and our state. I am honored to be recognized by such an outstanding group. Their work changes people's lives and embodies the spirit of hope. Thank you again for this tremendous honor." – State Representative Gail Haines

"Being named a Hero of Breast Cancer is a humbling honor, particularly for a physician. So many of our mothers, sisters, wives, friends and daughters have been touched by breast cancer. We are inspired by those who are currently fighting breast cancer, mourn those who have lost their battle and eternally grateful for those who have won their fight. We all must work together to help craft public policy that will allow for continued research and I look forward to continuing to advocate in the legislature for pioneering institutions like Karmanos." – State Senator Roger Kahn, M.D.

For media work that communicates important messages about breast cancer.

  • Individual Joint Award: Ashlee Baracy of WDIV Local 4 and her mother Janet Baracy, breast cancer survivor, both from Westland.

WDIV Local 4 Reporter Ashlee Baracy and her mother Janet have shared the intimate and touching story of their loving relationship and united fight throughout Janet's diagnosis, treatment, recovery and survivorship. True role models, together they have helped metro Detroiters fight breast cancer with information, inspiration, tears and laughter. Their work has also been recognized by the YWCA and the Miss America Organization.

"No matter how many years pass, the words 'Mom has cancer' resonate as clearly as they did the first time I heard them. However, the past ten years have molded my perception. Now when I hear the word 'cancer,' the first thing I hear is 'can.' We can hope, we can unite, we can fight and we can win. I thank God for giving my mom a second chance at life and for giving me the platform to reach thousands of people on air every day. My mother and I don't advocate for the sake of accolades, we advocate for awareness. Thank you, Karmanos, for your dedication to one day finding a cure." – Ashlee Baracy

  • Organization: News/Talk WJR 760, a Cumulus Media radio station

Newstalk WJR 760 has produced shows, emceed events and built enthusiasm among their listeners to support the Karmanos Cancer Institute. Through public service announcements and on-air conversations with scientists, clinicians, patients and supporters, listeners have learned about the importance of regular screening and early detection, the role clinical trials play in advancing research and the cancer expertise available at Karmanos.

"WJR is proud to play a role in communicating the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute's mission of prevention, early detection, treatment and eventual eradication of breast cancer. Our community is fortunate to have one of the best cancer centers in the nation located right here in Detroit. With that comes a responsibility to support Karmanos and the great work of all their team members." – Tom O'Brien, Vice President/Market Manager Cumulus Media – Detroit WJR/WDVD/DOUG-FM

For dedication of resources and talents to benefit the cause of breast cancer.

  • The Detroit Tigers 

This championship team has been engaged in the fight against cancer for a long time. From participation in MLB's "Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer, its long-time support of the Komen Detroit Race for the Cure, and the exciting "Pink Out the Park" events enhancing awareness of breast health among baseball fans, as well as raising funds to support Karmanos Cancer Institute's research; the Detroit Tigers have significantly helped educate and support Karmanos' mission to eradicate breast cancer, and all cancers.

"The Detroit Tigers are very proud to be honored by the Karmanos Cancer Institute with the Heroes of Breast Cancer Philanthropy Award. To stimulate fundraising for an organization that saves lives and improves our community so profoundly is important to us. We tip our caps and salute the Karmanos team of champions:  patients, caregivers and researchers, and we pledge our ongoing support." – David Dombrowski, Tigers' President, CEO and General Manager

For voluntary efforts that help communicate the importance of breast cancer prevention, early detection, cancer care and/or survivorship within the community.

  • Individual: Steve Acho, of Bloomfield Hills

Local singer-songwriter Steve Acho generously donated his song "Heroes for Life" to Komen Detroit Race for the Cure to fund breast cancer research and needs-based community programs that provide breast cancer services for people in our community with limited resources. The song is available for download and purchase on iTunes. "Heroes for Life" is featured in a video produced and donated by the Emmy-winning Under the Radar Michigan team. Visit www.karmanoscancer.org/KomenDetroit to learn more.

"I'm delighted to make a contribution to an organization that does so much to inspire positive change, and honored to receive this award." – Steve Acho

  • Organization: S.A.Y. Detroit Family Health Clinic

S.A.Y. Detroit (which stands for Super All Year Detroit) is a free, 24/7 clinic. The mission is to provide preventative and basic medical care with compassion, dignity, and respect to homeless, uninsured and under-insured women and children in a positively uplifted environment. Poverty and lack of access to healthcare has an adverse impact on breast health, and overall health, with more women being diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer. This clinic is the answer to the prayers of many Detroit-area families.

"I'm humbled to have the S.A.Y. Clinic recognized by Karmanos Cancer Institute with this tremendous honor. But the real heroes are people like my late sister-in-law, Debbie, who so bravely fight this horrendous disease with everything they have. If there's anything I can do to help them, it's my privilege, and I will strive to continue that work for many years to come." – Mitch Albom, Founder, S.A.Y. Detroit Family Clinic

A health care professional whose treatment of breast cancer patients has been marked by exceptional technical skill, combined with sensitivity and compassion.

  • Lisa K. Astalos Chism, DNP, APRN, BC, NCMP, FAANP, of Woodhaven

As medical director of Karmanos' Women's Wellness Center, this doctor of nursing practice encourages women to be proactive about their health. From preventive care to diagnosis, through treatment and recovery, her clinics emphasize the importance of ongoing care and watchful monitoring for breast cancer. The highly honored Dr. Lisa Chism does it all with sensitive and compassionate care of her patients.

"From the moment I meet a patient at Karmanos, I feel connected to that patient and am committed to promoting their health and well-being. It is truly a privilege and an honor to care for my patients at Karmanos from diagnosis through survivorship."  – Lisa K. Astalos Chism, Medical Director of the Women's Wellness Clinic at Karmanos Cancer Center

  • Kathleen Hardy, LMSW, of Brighton

Karmanos Cancer Center's oncology social worker and cancer counselor embodies the intent of this award with the personal commitment she makes with her patients and the outstanding competence and professionalism she demonstrates every day. Kathleen Hardy is known for her ability to connect people to resources, and to each other. It all comes from her belief that no one should have to go through the cancer battle alone.

"It is a privilege to support women and men with breast cancer; thank you for this recognition." – Kathleen Hardy, oncology social worker, Karmanos' Weisberg Cancer Treatment Center, Farmington Hills

THE GERI LESTER COURAGE AWARDS, presented by Stefany Lester Freeman
An individual whose battle with breast cancer has been an inspiration to family, friends and community.

Geri Lester was one of the leaders of the Komen Detroit Race for the Cure® since its 1992 inception, and was integral to the development of the Heroes of Breast Cancer Program. Geri dedicated herself to bringing supportive and educational services to the metropolitan Detroit cancer community. She was a founding member of Gilda's Club of Metro Detroit. A 2002 Heroes of Breast Cancer Courage awardee, Geri always saw the good in others, the gifts of everyday living and the hope in every situation. Geri lost her 20-year battle to breast cancer in May 2003, but her brave and cheerful attitude in the face of her disease remains an inspiration to us all.

  • In Memory: Victoria S. Levin, formerly of Royal Oak, June 8, 1934Sept. 9, 2008

Victoria Levin was married to Congressman Sander Levin. Mrs. Levin worked on infant and children's mental health issues for three decades at the National Institutes of Health. She was a tireless advocate for scientific research and a mentor to many young scientists in her field, especially women. She lost her battle with metastatic breast cancer in 2008 but her memory and compassion for others' lives on by those she touched.

"Mom's struggle with breast cancer and its recurrence gave us a whole new understanding about who she was, as we were inundated with expressions of concern, support and admiration from so many people whose lives she touched. Mom would never think of herself as a hero, but she was a hero to us and, as we found out, to so many young scientists and professors whose careers she helped shape and whose lives she helped nurture." –Andy Levin

  • In Honor: Mary Chris Skeldon, of Toledo, OH

Mary Chris Skeldon has battled metastatic breast cancer since her first diagnosis in 1997 and again following a recurrence in 2011. An advocate on many levels, she is the consummate fighter who decided to remain positive, to keep going and smile through every aspect of her journey. A Karmanos patient of Dr. Patricia LoRusso, D.O., Mary Chris is committed to helping find a cure through her participation in clinical trials and championing research; and by sharing her story and raising funds for others battling this disease. She is supported by her husband Marty, their loving family and a very wide circle of friends who continue to be inspired by her determination and positive attitude.

"It is certainly a distinct honor to be selected as the recipient of the Heroes of Breast Cancer Geri Lester Courage Award. My 16-year battle has been made easier by many dedicated heath care providers. I have been fortunate to be in their loving care. I rest easier because of the superior world-class care provided by the Karmanos team. Because of this I have been able to offer hope to many women who are in similar circumstances. A wise physician told me to 'stay in life' and she would take care of the cancer. Those words have set me free." – Mary Chris Skeldon, board president, Susan G. Komen Northwest Ohio Affiliate

For demonstrated leadership in breast cancer research.

Dr. Michael J. Brennan served as president of the Michigan Cancer Foundation (MCF), the forerunner of the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute. Dr. Brennan died in 2010 at the age of 89. He was a nationally-renowned oncologist when he took the helm of MCF in 1966, serving as its president until 1991. Under his leadership, MCF became the country's 20th comprehensive cancer center in 1978. Dr. Brennan was a pioneer in cancer research, a mentor and an inspiration who helped put the Karmanos Cancer Institute on the map as a leader in compassionate, comprehensive cancer care. Dr. Brennan was beloved by his family, friends and patients and will be remembered for his wisdom, dedication and charming Irish personality.

Joint award presented by Gerold Bepler, M.D., Ph.D., to:

  • Csaba Juhasz, M.D., Ph.D., of Grosse Pointe, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Neurology, PET Center, Children's Hospital of Michigan; and Sandeep Mittal, M.D., FRCSC, of West Bloomfield,

Co-Team Leader, Neuro-Oncology Multidisciplinary Team, Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute; and Professor, Wayne State University School of Medicine.

Doctors Juhasz and Mittal, neurologist and brain surgeon respectively, have pioneered an imaging method that allows visualization of breast cancer metastasis at such high resolution that tumors in the brain can be more accurately categorized. Their work can lead to treatments that are much better able to target the disease. This team's work is unique to Karmanos and is expected to have a remarkable impact for patients within five to ten years. 

"I am honored to receive this award, which recognizes not only me but also the efforts of a team of dedicated specialists from multiple disciplines. I take this award as an encouragement that we are on the right track, and also as an inspiration to continue our work until we succeed. I am convinced that our pre-clinical and human studies will help patients with both primary and metastatic disease." – Csaba Juhasz, M.D., Ph.D.

"I am deeply honored to receive this award. We have made great strides in the diagnosis and treatment of the primary disease. We are now focusing on developing ways to predict which patients are more likely to develop brain metastases, as well as trying to prevent the disease from spreading to the central nervous system. These efforts will no doubt help to improve the lives of patients with breast cancer." – Sandeep Mittal, M.D., FRCSC

SOURCE Karmanos Cancer Institute