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When Science Meets Fashion

Nov 30, 2011

Designed for a Cure fashion event celebrates cancer survivorship with physician/patient runway show

Participants walk down the runway at Designed for a Cure fashion show|Photo courtesy of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center
Oncologists, in both a metaphoric and literal sense, are fearless navigators. They are tasked every day with skillfully guiding patients through the often unforeseen and jarring voyage from cancer diagnosis to treatment, and then mapping out a conceivable road to survivorship. In turn, countless patients and survivors feel indebted to their physicians. During a recent fashion show/fundraising event, Designed for a Cure, a select group of cancer survivors exercised their gratitude by escorting their very own oncologists down—what many consider to be—an arduous and intimidating path down a high-fashion catwalk.

Described on the event’s webpage as “a powerful evening where science and fashion come together to celebrate cancer survival,” Designed for a Cure is a biennial event hosted by Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. This year’s event was held November 12 at the JW Marriott Marquis Miami. It featured survivor-models wearing fashions by Perry Ellis International while escorting Sylvester doctors and clinicians. Over $300,000 was raised from the event and will benefit cancer research at Sylvester. Jennifer Stearns Buttrick, of Stearns, Weaver, Miller, Weissler, Alhadeff & Sitterson, P.A., served as Chair of Designed for a Cure, and Academy Award-winning director David Frankel served as Master of Ceremonies.

Dr. Soloway (left) with Mr. de Molina|Photo courtesy of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center
Of the 15 participating physicians, 11 were ASCO members. One such member was Mark S. Soloway, MD—Professor and Chairman Emeritus in the Department Urology at Miller School of Medicine,  who was escorted by Raúl de Molina—Emmy award winning co-host of Univision’s “El Gordo y la Flaca.”

Dr. Soloway recalled meeting Mr. de Molina after he was referred to Sylvester from a regional hospital in Miami, following the discovery of a renal mass. Dr. Soloway, along with partner Gaetano Ciancio, MD, MBA, successfully treated Mr. de Molina by means of removing his right kidney.

Over time, the physician-patient relationship between Dr. Soloway and Mr. de Molina grew into a friendship. Dr. Soloway explained that the two share a love of photography and enjoy going out to dinner with each other.

A crowning moment of this friendship occurred at Designed for a Cure, in part because of friendly competition with other participants. “I had seen the other doctors, some of whom were not animated—some were, but many were not—and I said, ‘Raúl, we’re really going to liven this up,’” said Dr. Soloway. Accordingly, when the two reached the end of the runway, they shared a “high-five” and a hug. “We hustled down smiling,” he added. “I just thought it was great fun to have everyone standing in applause—of course I knew they were doing it for El Gordo [Mr. de Molina’s famous moniker], not me!”

Dr. Goodwin (center) with Dr. Kobetz-Kerman (right) and Mr. Spevak (left)|Photo courtesy of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center
For W. Jarrard Goodwin, MD, FACS—Chief Medical Officer of Sylvester and Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology—walking down the runway summoned feelings of both tenderness and trepidation. “Aside from the practical things of trying to look anything but ridiculous—it was an elevated long platform just like you would see at any major fashion show, so you feel exposed up there when you’re not used to being a model—I just remember seeing so many friends and colleagues in the group, and it was just heartwarming.”

Dr. Goodwin was escorted down the runway twice. Erin N. Kobetz-Kerman, PhD, MPH, a survivor of thyroid cancer and an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Miller School of Medicine escorted him the first time, and his former patient Bob Spevak, a lymphoma survivor, escorted him the second time.

Stand-out moments for Dr. Goodwin included interacting with the “extended Sylvester family,” as well as the biographies of the survivors, which were read by Mr. Frankel as they walked down the runway. “It was very special,” he added.

Dr. Benedetto (left) and Ms. McKinney Rusk (right)|Photo courtesy of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center
Jamie McKinney Rusk, a survivor of stage IV adenocarcinoma of the duodenum—and recently named 2013 Designed for a Cure Chair—escorted her oncologist, Pasquale W. Benedetto, MD, down the runway. Dr. Benedetto is an oncologist and Professor of Medicine at the Miller School of Medicine. Ms. McKinney Rusk considers Designed for a Cure a night for survivors to thank their physicians and an opportunity “to celebrate together in a very atypical setting.”

Upon meeting Dr. Benedetto approximately four years ago when she was diagnosed, Ms. McKinney Rusk recalled, “I immediately had such a great connection with him. I just knew he was a doctor who was going to be a part of my life, and he was going to make sure to keep me alive and take care of me. He’s been amazing. We’ve had such a great friendship and I think the world of him.”

In present day, she cherishes an action photo of the two of them from Designed for a Cure, which captures those same initial sentiments for him. “I told my husband that I love the way Dr. B is looking at me [in that picture.] And my husband said, ‘It’s because he’s proud of you.’”

“All about joy and life”
The impact from events like Designed for a Cure on physician/patient relationships and overall morale of cancer survivorship is vast. “I think it is extremely positive,” said Dr. Goodwin. “It’s really about creating family—the volunteers, survivors, physicians, and staff of the hospitals coming together.”

Ms. McKinney Rusk noted how such events help personify the appreciation felt for physicians by individuals in all settings. “It makes us all closer, and the physicians are able to see our appreciation—not just the models, but those who served on the committee, those of us who are involved in the leadership roles, in the development at Sylvester.”

Finally, as someone on the receiving end at such events, Dr. Soloway fully recognizes and appreciates the warm sentiments often felt toward physicians. “It’s wonderful to be put in this position where people recognize you for your surgical expertise,” he said. And while Designed for a Cure stems from a life struggle, he believes such events are “all about joy and life.”

—By Elyse Blye

The following is a comprehensive list of physicians and survivor model–escorts who participated in Designed for a Cure:

  • David J. Arnold, MD, escorted by  Julie Nance
  • Julio C. Barredo, MD*, escorted by Steven Rua
  • Pasquale W. Benedetto, MD*, escorted by Jamie McKinney Rusk
  • W. Jarrard Goodwin, MD, FACS*, escorted by Bob Spevak; Erin Kobetz-Kerman, PhD, MPH
  • James M. Grichnik, MD, PhD, escorted by Victor Oliva
  • Izidore S. Lossos, MD*, escorted by Gerald Wolchock
  • Frederick L. Moffat, Jr., MD*, escorted by Karina Casanas
  • Alberto J. Montero, MD*, & Claudia Diaz-Montero, PhD, escorted by Ignacio Urbieta
  • Caio Max S. Rocha Lima, MD*, escorted by Jose A. Herran
  • Joseph D. Rosenblatt, MD*, escorted by Mike Lowell
  • Orlando E. Silva, MD, JD*, escorted by Helen Picard-Malfavon
  • Rakesh Singal, MD*, escorted by Ray Sullivan
  • Mark S. Soloway, MD*, escorted by Raúl de Molina
  • Aaron H. Wolfson, MD, escorted by Arnie Spevak

* = ASCO member

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