If you don’t have someone close to you who has just graduated, you’ve likely at least heard bits and pieces of motivational commencement addresses from around the country. Sentimental nut that I am, I always get a bit teary and reflective.
To fight back those tears, I force myself to think of these ceremonies as commencements, rather than graduations. All the opportunities the future holds. All the promise ahead.
So, I was particularly touched when we received the note below from Ethan Ludmir, who just completed his year as a CURE-sponsored Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Fellows Program. Our first crop of ‘graduates’ has completed a year in an epilepsy research lab, and it’s so clear that this truly is a commencement—a commencement of great things! Ethan and Abhijeet Gummadavelli are the future of epilepsy research, embarking on what I am sure will be great careers, and we wish them both the very best!
Your support has helped spur our interest in epilepsy / neurology research, in terms of both short- and long-term career goals. The research progress made this year has been exceedingly rewarding, and being a part of the bigger-picture mission to develop preventative and curative therapies for the epilepsies has tremendously fueled my interest in this field. I am incredibly grateful to CURE for their partnership with HHMI through this program, and please let me know if there is anything I can do in the future to help you and CURE.”
On another note, the other night I had the honor of attending the 2014 Golden Trumpet Awards dinner of the Publicity Club of Chicago, at which our good friends Rick Jasculca and Jim Terman were honored with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award for their pioneering three decades of work in public affairs. Rick and Jim have given so much to CURE since our very first benefit back in 1999—from event support, to PR, to graphic design. Their friendship has meant so much to CURE and to our success—it was truly heartwarming to see them appropriately honored last night, and to hear Keynote Speaker President Jimmy Carter sing their praises as well!
While we are still reeling from our fantastically successful benefit with James Taylor on May 19th, we have even more fantastic news to share!
Robin Harding has just joined CURE as our CEO! Many of you have had the opportunity to meet Robin over the last six months as she has served as our Interim Executive Director. For the rest of you, I hope you will introduce yourselves and welcome Robin to her new position in the CURE family. We are all thrilled!
Robin’s leadership experience is guaranteed to help guide us in our pursuit of the research investments that will accelerate our search for cures. We are so excited she has agreed, enthusiastically, to join us at the helm of what is already a terrific and dedicated team!
On behalf of our Board of Directors and our staff, please join us in welcoming Robin. This is an amazing time for CURE but, far more importantly, this is a time when scientific opportunities abound, and we are all poised and excited to take advantage of them and to watch progress unfold!
Finally, I just want to take one more opportunity to thank Debra Cafaro, our mighty Dinner Chair, and the Chicago Bears’ Phil Emery for everything they did to make last week’s event so phenomenal!
The stars were truly aligned last night as we celebrated our 16th Annual Chicago Benefit at Navy Pier. I wish that all of you who care so deeply about this cause could have joined us, but you were definitely there in spirit!
The evening was phenomenal in so many ways. Our largest crowd ever— more than 1100 people—many of them newcomers to this cause! Our very special guest Phil Emery (General Manager, Chicago Bears) and our incredibly awesome Event Chair Debra Cafaro (CEO and Chairman, Ventas, Inc.) joined me in sharing personal stories about our daughters with epilepsy.
And, nothing could have been more delicious frosting on the cake than listening to a fantastic and moving performance by none other than the legendary James Taylor. He certainly was the soundtrack of my life, and to have him give so generously of his time to help this cause just takes my breath away.
To all of our generous sponsors and supporters who believe in CURE, we sincerely thank you and credit you with having raised a truly remarkable $2 Million. Scientific opportunities abound right now, and the most painful thing is to not have the funds to be able to invest in them. Last night will enable us to invest in so much more of the critically needed research in the coming year, and really move all of us closer to the day when we can conquer this disease.
There are also many that deserve a special shout-out because their contributions of time, energy, creativity, wisdom and passion — so many amazing friends, including our devoted friends from Jasculca-Terman, the folks who so generously lent their time and talent to produce the annual video (especially, but not limited to Cyndi Moran, Sarah Hegeman and Alan Thatcher), and an army of spirited volunteers (with a special shout-out to Dave Grossman, Ruben, Geoff Fishwick, Georgia & Dan Casciato). Their efforts help our bottom line dramatically, so that so much more of what we raised can be put directly into our research program.
And last, but certainly not least, our devoted and mighty staff. They turned not just their work lives, but also their personal lives upside down to drive the success of this event. Now we can all get back to work—-ok, maybe they have earned a little down time…….. !
From the bottom of my heart, and on behalf of those whose lives have been touched by epilepsy, and generations to come, thanks to all of you!
Last week was the seventh in the inaugural year of our Frontiers in Research Seminar Series. Neurologists and neurology residents gathered at the University of Washington in Seattle for Dr. Kevin Staley’s lecture, ‘Are you only using 75% of your brain?’
Earlier this week I joined our entire science team–Steve White, Julie Milder and Tracy Dixon-Salazar–in Houston for the When Epilepsy is Catastrophic: Molecular Causes and their Consequences Conference. The focus of the conference was totally in line with what drove so many of us to form CURE—-those epilepsies that are so profoundly devastating to our kids—that it was a fantastic opportunity for us to support the bringing together of families, researchers and clinicians to delve into what needs to be done to improve and save so many young lives.
We saw a lot of our CURE researchers and advisors there, met some new scientists from outside the field, and loved meeting some new families as well!
Last, but certainly not least, there is just one week left for those of you procrastinators out there, to honor a special mother in your life. Check out our Mother’s Day campaign to support CURE’s mission!
I think this is –yikes — the 17th Annual American Epilepsy Society meeting in a row I have attended! The folks that were young investigators when I started, are now the esteemed, established investigators. There’s a new crop of young investigators who fill us all with hope. Some are our new grantees, and I’m looking forward to meeting them personally to congratulate and encourage them to continue to make epilepsy their career path. It’s fun to look around and wonder which of them will be the leaders in their time, and the ones to make meaningful breakthroughs.
The halls and sessions are filled with so many great individuals—many I’m honored to call friends–who have assisted CURE in so many ways over these years. Serving on our Scientific Advisory Boards, reviewing grants, helping spread the word to researchers and patients. It is a great community.
Over the next few days, I’ll share pictures with you from just a few of the sessions and meetings going on here in Washington DC–sometimes the greatest challenge is selecting which to attend. But, as always, some of the greatest conversations and networking opportunities happen in the corridors and on coffee breaks!
It’s so rewarding to see CURE-funded research so prevalent at this meeting in talks, special interest groups, poster sessions and beyond. We have planted so many seeds that have really taken off over these years. Many of you have enabled us to do this with your support. Please remember—and help us spread the word—-that we have an amazing matching grant that will double all donations received between now and December 31st up to $250,000 ! Now’s a critical time to give, and your support will continue to enable us to fund much more of the innovative research CURE is known for in 2014 and beyond!
Keeping up the momentum after last week’s great event in New York, I traveled to Houston and to Oklahoma City for more fantastic exposure for CURE and epilepsy research. I was thrilled to be there to hear Peter Crino, MD, PhD, present his exciting discoveries at the second lecture in our CURE the Epilepsies: Frontiers in Research seminar series.
Last night, we were reunited with our friends in New York for our Annual Reception to benefit epilepsy research. It was a great turnout, with many of our scientists in attendance. Thank you to Willie Geist, a terrific host, and all of our supporters and sponsors who made another evening in the Big Apple a success. See some pictures from the reception below!
This morning, our friends at Morning Joe welcomed Tracy Dixon-Salazar, PhD and I on the show, where Tracy shared the story of how deeply epilepsy has impacted her life – driving her to get a PhD in neurobiology with hopes of better understanding the seizures that plague her daughter Savannah. I was proud to address the progress CURE is making in research, and the endless possibilities for cures awaiting us with the right infusion of resources and attention.
And here’s some hopeful news for patients struggling with uncontrollable seizures–always such welcome new when new devices and treatments become available.