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‘Masked ball’ to benefit Health Center’s skin cancer program

by Maureen McGuire - July 23, 2007

An elegant masked ball is planned for this fall to raise funds to expand the Health Center’s skin cancer program. Proceeds from the ball will support the development of a Cutaneous Oncology Center.

“The incidence of melanoma is increasing at an alarming rate,” says Dr. Carolyn Runowicz, director of the Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center, chair of the National Cancer Advisory Board, and former president of the American Cancer Society.

“Our goal is to raise funds to recruit new faculty and bolster research initiatives in the area of skin cancer and melanoma.”

The new skin cancer initiative will be led by Dr. Jane Grant-Kels, director of the Health Center’s Department of Dermatology and one of the region’s leading skin cancer experts.

Grant-Kels is also chair of the melanoma program at the Health Center.

“With the creation of the new center, we can focus on promising research initiatives, as well as enhanced education and outreach efforts,” says Grant-Kels.

“We especially want to reach young people, who can prevent skin cancer by avoiding sun exposure.”

She adds that although the chances of developing melanoma increase with age, it is one of the most common cancers in young adults.

“All types of skin cancer are on the rise, including the most serious form, melanoma,” says Grant-Kels.

“And melanoma is particularly frightening – someone dies every hour in the U.S. from this disease.”

The Health Center offers special services to help individuals detect melanoma in its earliest form, as well as providing comprehensive care if melanoma is diagnosed.

The inaugural “Imagine …Unmasking a World without Cancer,” ball will be held on Saturday, Oct. 20, at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, and will include dinner, dancing, and entertainment.

It is planned to become an annual event to benefit programs within the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Wendy Lux of the UConn Foundation says, “This inaugural event will celebrate the extraordinary individuals at the UConn Health Center who make a difference every day in the lives of cancer patients and their loved ones, and will raise awareness of many of the cutting-edge services within the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center.” Lux has been working with a volunteer committee to organize the event.

Dr. Jane Grant-Kels, chair of the dermatology department and melanoma program, will lead a new skin cancer program at the Health Center.
Dr. Jane Grant-Kels, chair of the dermatology department and melanoma program, will lead a new skin cancer program at the Health Center.
Photo by Al Ferreira

Three well-known individuals who have each made considerable contributions to raise awareness about cancer will be honored during the ball.

Jim Calhoun has led the UConn men’s basketball program to two NCAA National Championships (1999, 2004) and earned basketball’s highest honor, election into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In addition to his many professional successes, Calhoun has a long connection with the Health Center. He and his wife Pat have supported cardiology research for many years. In addition, he continues to be a role model for cancer survivors across the nation. This year, he started the Big Y Jim Calhoun Cancer Challenge Ride to benefit the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Coaches vs. Cancer. He logged in 50 miles for the inaugural ride on June 9. The ride is intended to become an annual event.

Dr. Jack W. Rowe is chairman of the University’s Board of Trustees. He served as chairman and CEO of Aetna Inc. for many years and was an inspirational leader during a critical time in the company’s more than 150-year history. In addition, Rowe is a national leader in health care policy.

Dr. Judith Reichman is a household name because of the medical advice she regularly shares with viewers of NBC’s Today show. In addition to her television and speaking appearances, Reichman maintains an active practice in Los Angeles, specializing in gynecology, infertility, and menopause, and is the author of many health-related books.

“All three of these individuals have made enormous contributions to help raise awareness about cancer prevention, detection, and treatment,” says Runowicz.

“We are so pleased they can join us for this event to acknowledge our thanks and appreciation.”

Individuals or businesses interested in becoming sponsors, purchasing tickets, or making a gift to the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center’s melanoma program may call Christine Capasso at the Health Center: 860-679-4569.

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