Take Charge

Moffitt and Tampa Bay Rays Lead Relief Mission to Puerto Rico

October 11, 2017

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Help is on the way to Ponce, Puerto Rico, thanks to Moffitt Cancer Center and the Tampa Bay Rays.

More than 30,000 pounds of medical and hurricane supplies, generators, food and water are on a chartered Boeing 737 headed for the island devastated by Hurricane Maria. Rays pitcher Xavier Cedeño has a one-way ticket to stay with his family in Guayanilla during the offseason. Rep. Janet Cruz and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman will survey the damage and help deliver supplies. USF Health will also distribute medical supplies.

But it’s the return mission that’s just as important to Moffitt.

Cancer patients and their caregivers will land in Tampa the evening of Oct. 11 to continue their care at Moffitt. Dr. Bjorn Holmstrom and nurses DeWawn Sumner and Erika Wiggins will be on hand to assess their conditions and administer aid.

Four shipping containers will collect 3,000 cancer tissue samples gathered over the past 10 years at Ponce Health Sciences University, which is on backup generator power. Losing these samples would cripple multiple research projects at Moffitt and Ponce, who has forged a strong academic partnership for 10 years.

This is the research critical to guiding personalized medicine efforts in the Hispanic population.

Moffitt and the Rays, along with Rep. Cruz, Ponce Health Sciences University, USF Health and the Course of Action Foundation, coordinated the charter flight in and out of Tampa International Airport.