In a tribute to her late husband, Connie Weaver has donated $50,000 to research at Moffitt Cancer Center that is designed to reduce the number of Black patients who die from colorectal cancer.
Weaver said her husband David got outstanding care at Moffitt from Mokenge Malafa, MD, and the entire team who treated his cancer in 2020. When she learned Malafa was co-leading a study designed to help others live longer, she knew she wanted to help.
"With Dr. Malafa, the nurses, the students and everyone on the floor, you know they care about you and they're fighting for you. Dr. Malafa is the quarterback, he sets the tone, and the whole team fight for you 100 percent," she said.
"That, to me, is what's different about the Moffitt way. That plus their dedication to explaining everything in a way that's easy to understand so you can make the best decisions. I can't even tell you the number of times Dr. Malafa sat there with us, even drawing pictures on the whiteboard, to make sure our family understood all our options and could choose the best ones," she added.
"A team like that deserves to have their passions funded. That's what let me to support this important research."
Malafa and Michael Schell, PhD, are co-leading a study concerning colorectal cancer, which affects Black Americans more frequently and with higher mortality than other groups. The study is partly funded by the George Edgecomb Society.
The study aims to identify the genetic signature of patients with colorectal cancer who survive longer when treated with aspirin. The study will evaluate whether this genetic signature differs in Black and white people. Ultimately, the findings will be used in a future trial to select Black colorectal cancer patients most likely to survive longer with aspirin use.
Asked how she came to support this health equity research, she said, "first of all, it's important to Dr. Malafa, it starts there. He has such humanity and cared about his work to better understand cancer in underserved groups. Frankly, it gives me great pride to support this research as well."
Connie Weaver said she especially appreciates this research because it could give many people more high-quality years of life at a low cost. She made the gift in loving memory of David and also in honor of their daughters Brenda and Karen.
David Weaver, who was 85, was hospitalized in Naples in 2020 and diagnosed with bile duct cancer. He was transferred after about two weeks to Moffitt.
"David was a brilliant man and one of the kindest, most patient human beings I've ever known," she said. He grew up on a Pennsylvania farm, served in the U.S. Army, earned a PhD and became a professor, author, business leader and an early proponent of distance learning. He moved repeatedly to follow Connie Weaver's career as a marketing executive.
He would have enthusiastically supported Dr. Malafa's research, Connie Weaver said.
"It's a gift in the memory of my late husband also for the dignity, the humanity that the Moffitt team showed to him. Coming from humble beginnings, the first of seven kids in his family to go beyond 8th grade, David would have been proud to support this research that can do so much to help others."