The Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine (OUWB) oncology group recently raised $10,710 for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, surpassing its goal of $10,000.
The St. Baldrick’s Foundation’s goal is to fund childhood cancer research to “fill the gap” in funding for adults and children. Its first event was held in 2000. According to the website, the cause has helped get Unituxin (Dinutuximab), a drug used to treat high-risk neuroblastoma in children, approved in 2015. The group has raised over $258 million since 2005.
Along with raising money, participants have their heads and beards shaved, and cut inches off their hair in support of cancer patients.
According to the OU website, more than 20 people participated in “braving the shave” at the event, and even more raised money to fund research.
Nikhil Mankuzhy, co-president of the group, shaved his head at the event and reported this is the fourth year the event has been held on campus.
According to Mankuzhy, in 2018 the oncology group raised just around $8,000 for the cause, and this year they wanted to set the goal higher by raising it to $10,000. They earned $710 more than the goal amount.
Alex Yang, co-president and medical student, said the oncology interest group tries to increase student interest each year. The majority of students at the event are first- and second-year medical students. Each year, group members try to set higher goals to fund as much for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation as they can.
“The leadership of the oncology interest group has always been ambitious,” Yang said. “So to get us to improve and to get more people interested in the group, we’ve been setting bigger and bigger goals every year.”
Yang believes everybody’s lives have been touched by cancer in one way or another. Mitchell Becker, a first-year medical student, was brought to donate because he had cancer himself, and his grandma had it.
According to OU’s website, Becker alone raised a little over $2,052 for the foundation and the cause.
OUWB students weren’t the only ones involved. Outside students and professors also participated.
“The person who raised the second most amount of money wasn’t even an OUWB student,” Mankuzhy said. “We had faculty involved, and we had three people outside our med school. They were local and heard about the event and they joined.”
Mankuzhy said goals for the event included getting more involvement from undergraduate students and the Rochester community. OUWB students want to reach out to more people outside of OUWB and show it is not limited to those in the med school.
Professor Jason Wasserman even offered to shave and “auctioned” off his beard. Whoever donated the most on his Facebook page was able to shave it.
Yang said both the cause and the head shaving brought people closer together and created a lasting moment of solidarity for the participants and those they support. He said classmates outside the event showed support as well by complimenting their new hair and joining in on the shaving.
“It’s always a good bonding experience for the year,” Yang said. “A lot of people get involved because of the cause to show solidarity with the children St. Baldrick’s supports.”