By Guest Writer - December 05, 2018
In the nearly 15 years I’ve been at Moffitt Cancer Center, I have witnessed many changes, including tremendous organizational growth, as well as the evolution of my own research and role within the institution. One comforting constant throughout those years has been Miles for Moffitt.
I have made a point to participate almost every year because the event provides an opportunity to come together with family, friends, co-workers, patients, survivors and members of the community, all in support of our mission. Each year, seeing the passion, hearing the stories, and feeling both the triumph and loss, I walk away energized with a renewed perspective and inspiration to continue my work.
As a researcher, Miles for Moffitt represents an incredible professional opportunity. When I received a Miles for Moffitt award back in 2008, I used the funds to support a graduate student who had been working for me for several years. I had a project that had officially ended, but the data analysis was incomplete. Miles for Moffitt funds allowed me to extend the student’s time on the project, leading to several peer-reviewed publications. These results also provided key preliminary data for a National Cancer Institute (NCI) R01 grant application that was successfully funded and currently supports the ongoing cohort study we’re conducting today. In this era of highly competitive funding, our faculty members know how important internal funding can be in accelerating our research — and obtaining the funding necessary for NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center designation.
When I attended the race in subsequent years, I wore the T-shirt designed specifically for faculty who had received funding through Miles for Moffitt. On the back of the shirt, it said, “Ask me about my research.” Lo and behold, I had several people, including patients, inquire about my research. It reminded me of the responsibility that comes with our roles as researchers.
People’s lives depend on our work, and we are both advocates for fundraising, as well as stewards of the dollars raised to support our work.
The way in which the Tampa Bay community rallies around Moffitt is very evident, with corporate and community leaders present to recognize Moffitt as the impactful gem we all know. The immense growth of the event has also inspired expansion and evolution. For the first time, the race will be held in downtown Tampa this year, amid the fantastic Water Street project. While we will miss running past Moffitt Cancer Center, the change in venue will allow us to engage even more of our surrounding community.
Miles for Moffitt is also deeply personal to me. Each year it offers me a moment to contemplate and to think about my mother, who fought cancer seven times over 24 years, during my childhood and early adulthood. Cancer was simply a part of our lives.
I always wondered why my mother developed cancer, which is why I pursued cancer epidemiology in graduate school. I think about my daughter, Brooke, who has grown up attending Miles for Moffitt every year, graduating from the toddler races to the 5K. She proudly wears the sign on the back of her shirt that says she participates in memory of Grandma Laurie, whom she never met.
I think about my husband whose father lost his battle with cancer two years before we met. How I wished I had the opportunity to know him. Finally, as I searched my personal photo archive in preparation for this article, I think about a friend and neighbor, pictured with me and several other faculty members two years ago during the portion of the event when researchers and survivors come together onstage. I just learned that she passed away.
I hope this inspires some of you who have never participated in Miles for Moffitt to join a team this year. But whether you run or walk the race, stand on the sideline to cheer on others, or donate to one of the participants or teams, there is an opportunity for everyone. This is one way each of us can contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer. And if you’re not sure what team to join, the Data Dashers team is certainly recruiting and open to everyone!
This article was written by Dr. Dana Rollison, Associate Center Director of Data Science