March 18, 2008
Even before they could write their first prescriptions for medications to combat baldness, more than 100 Tulane medical students decided bald is beautiful as part of the annual St. Baldrick’s fund-raiser for pediatric cancer.
St. Baldrick’s Foundation, based in Pasadena, Calif., began in 2000 when a group of Irish businessmen challenged each other to shave their heads for a company charity fund-raiser.
To date, St. Baldrick’s has raised $34 million nationally, shaving 46,000 heads along the way.
In a raucous environment at Tulane Medical Center on Wednesday (March 12), students, faculty and staff packed the lobby to watch friends and colleagues get shorn.
Stylists from seven local salons donated their time to the assembly-line process, which left the hospital lobby looking more like the locale for a Mr. Clean fan club meeting than a medical facility.
Although the feel of the event was upbeat, reminders of the impetus for the event were sprinkled throughout the crowd. The bald heads of children undergoing cancer treatment at Tulane served to reinforce what these men and women were doing on stage. As the St. Baldrick’s Foundation posters proclaimed: “Shaving a way to conquer kids’ cancer.”
The event was almost a year in the making, and the brainchild of the medical students.
“They came to me maybe eight or nine months ago,” said Dr. Marc Kahn, senior associate dean of student affairs for the medical school. “I told them I thought it was a great idea, and they’ve just run with it.”
The turnout for the event surprised Kahn, but he said the compassion of the students does not. He believes this kind of empathy is one of the reasons they chose Tulane for their medical training.
“Our students have always been involved in the community. But something like this is amazing. It’s just a great event,” Kahn added.
The student organizers were hoping to raise $25,000 for juvenile cancer research, and $5,000 for Tulane Hospital for Children — lofty goals, but perhaps not lofty enough.
The fund-raiser surpassed both marks, raising around $61,000 for cancer research and $7,000 for the hospital, with more donations yet to be tallied.
The success of the event touched one of the principal organizers, second-year medical student Alan Hathcock.
“Overall, it was more successful than we could have ever imagined,” Hathcock said.
While the financial success of the event was important, Hathcock was more taken aback by the effect it had on the patients in attendance.
“[One of the patients] said it best,” Hathcock said. “This poor girl has lost all of her hair from cancer treatment, and when we say ‘bald is beautiful’ it made her feel that she was beautiful.”
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