Near the top of the list of 990 teams registered for the 2012 Susan G. Komen Philadelphia Race for the Cure was a name that conjures up images of serenity and quiet comfort: Ari's Angel's. Most wouldn't expect that behind this team are some of the most aggressive, relentless activists in the fight against breast cancer in West Philadelphia... and beyond.
Ari, the leader of the 'angels', is Dr. Ari Brooks, Associate Professor in the Department of Surgery at Drexel University College of Medicine (DUCoM) and Associate Vice Dean for Research-Biotechnology Innovation. For over a decade, Dr. Brooks has been a steadfast partner in the Komen Philadelphia Affiliate's fight against breast cancer in fifteen counties, and is celebrated by The Affiliate, his profession, and the community for his achievements in empowering women and saving lives.
However, while Dr. Brooks and his team of 'breast cancer fighters' are undeniably fierce when confronting the disease, from their humble offices and O.R.s at Drexel University College of Medicine and Hahnemann University Hospital, they are the picture of compassion - befriending every patient, instilling confidence and bringing hope to thousands of women.
"There is something in Dr. Brook's approach as a champion of women facing the shadows of this disease that I've never seen anywhere else in my 22 years of involvement in the breast cancer movement... and if I live to lead this fight another 100 years, I'm sure I'll never see it in any other team of healthcare providers," said Elaine I. Grobman, Executive Director of the Komen Philadelphia Affiliate. "Women come to Dr. Brooks afraid, ashamed, hopeless, penniless. His team embraces them - indeed, respects and celebrates them - for who they are. They not only heal the body, they empower the spirit. I have yet to hear of one of Dr. Brook's patients with whom he is not still a dear friend... and I believe that says it all about what a treasure he is."
Given DUCoM's mission, you'd expect to see them at the Komen Philadelphia Race for the Cure joining thousands of others demonstrating their dedication to helping end breast cancer forever. However, for Ari's Angels, there is another aspect of the Race that truly hits home: it fuels their life-saving work in the community.
In 2002, Dr. Brooks established the Drexel University College of Medicine (DUCoM) Women's Health Project (WHP), which strives to reduce breast cancer morbidity and mortality among uninsured and underinsured women in Southeastern Pennsylvania. The program connected so perfectly with the Komen Philadelphia Affiliate mission to assure quality breast health care for all women, regardless of race, ethnicity or ability to pay, since its inception, DUCoM WHP has been funded by the Komen Philadelphia Affiliate Community Grants Program - a direct result of Race for the Cure fundraising. To date, the program has achieved great things for women in need:
"Our team is there on Race day to support the community that is supporting us," said Lauren Davis, MPH, CCRC, Program Manager, Drexel University College of Medicine. "Our Women's Health Project exists because of The Affiliate and the Komen Philadelphia Race for the Cure community... their fundraising and their steadfast support. It's our honor to be walking with those thousands of people, contributing to fundraising and, together, taking action to help assure our program keeps going - and keeps growing so we can embrace even more women."
Davis, Co-Captain of Ari's Angels for the past two years, went on to the at DUCoM team takes part in the Race so that other participants and fundraisers can understand exactly where their money goes, and how it is changing the face of breast cancer in this community.
So, this past Mother's Day, May 13, about fifty members of Ari's Angels - made up of staff, family and friends - were out bright and early on Eakins Oval. They celebrated survivors like Janet Aguilar, whose life was saved because of the DUCoM program, and many others like her, The team joined with thousands of Race-goers to share their hope and educate the community. And, they came out to do their part in empowering "Our Race. Our Community. Our Cures!"... a mission they pledge to support until breast cancer no longer is a threat to any life present or future.
Pictured (top). From the 2012 Komen Philadelphia Affiliate Community Grants award luncheon (L-R): Elaine I. Grobman, CEO, Komen Philadelphia Affiliate; Lauren Davis, Program Manager, Drexel University College of Medicine; Zeinab Mohamad, Outreach Coordinator, Drexel University College of Medicine; Meryl Weinreb, Chair, Education Committee, Komen Philadelphia Affiliate