Paving the Way for Tomorrow’s Healthcare Leaders
As former President and CEO of TIAA, Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., knows how to calculate a high-return investment. For years, Ferguson and his wife, Annette Nazareth, have invested in education through philanthropy to help make universities more accessible for talented students. When the COVID-19 pandemic exposed gaps in the healthcare system, the couple increased their support for education by establishing the Ferguson Nazareth Family Endowed Initiative for Medical Students and Residents From Historically Underrepresented Groups and the Ferguson Nazareth Family Clinical Fellowship in Health Equity. Both programs are strategically designed to improve diversity in the field of cancer.
“The pandemic has shone a bright light on healthcare inequity in this country,” reflects Ferguson, an MSK Board of Trustees member since 2009. “We hope to create a more diverse population of cancer researchers and doctors, and better equip MSK with the tools to attack these societal challenges.”
Funding from the Ferguson Nazareth family is fueling MSK’s collaboration with historically Black colleges and universities to provide valuable mentorship and oncology experiences for promising medical students who may not otherwise be able to attend a top cancer research institution. These programs are also empowering future healthcare leaders from groups underrepresented in science to conduct new research at MSK focused on addressing disparities in healthcare.
35 Years of Swim Across America
On August 1, 1987, a dozen ambitious swimmers participated in a 17-mile relay across Long Island Sound to support cancer research, giving birth to what is now known as Swim Across America (SAA).
Over the past 35 years, SAA charity swims have raised more than $100 million for research, clinical trials, and patient programs at the nation’s top cancer institutions to “make waves to fight cancer.” Since 1993, SAA has directed $18 million to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK), thanks to two annual charity swims in New York, in both Larchmont and Glen Cove.
SAA funds young investigator grants at MSK, which are designed to spark innovation and launch up-and-coming scientists into their careers. SAA is also a longtime investor in MSK’s immunotherapy research, including a clinical trial that made cancer history this past June, led by medical oncologists Andrea Cercek, Section Head of Colorectal Cancer and Co-Director of the Center for Young Onset Colorectal and Gastrointestinal Cancer, and Luis Alberto Diaz, Jr., Head of the Division of Solid Tumor Oncology and Grayer Family Chair. In the small study of 14 people with advanced rectal cancer that had a particular mutation, a single immunotherapy drug eliminated all evidence of cancer in every patient. These groundbreaking results mark the first time every participant has achieved complete cancer remission.
Today, the Swim Across America Laboratory at MSK is named in honor of the organization’s enduring generosity.
From Key Rings to Cures
Carly Abramson was 12 years old when her mother, Lisa, was first diagnosed with breast cancer. Determined to support her, Carly turned to crafting, weaving a key ring as a gift to comfort her mother.
A few weeks later, Lisa brought the key ring to MSK to show her nurses, who were so inspired by the story that they wanted to buy their own. So Carly started selling key rings for $15 apiece. With help from her family, she made over $10,000 and donated every penny to the work of her mother’s oncologist, Larry Norton, Norna S. Sarofim Chair in Clinical Oncology.
Following Carly’s fundraising success, the Abramsons were ready to do more. In 2007, they founded the Cure Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF), a nonprofit that partners with Dr. Norton to raise unrestricted funding and accelerate breakthroughs in cancer treatment. “CBCF provides premier researchers with the resources to think outside of the box and truly go where their intellect takes them — because that’s often where the most exciting discoveries begin,” says Andrew Abramson, Co-Founder of the CBCF.
As of 2022, the CBCF has raised more than $9 million for leading-edge cancer research.
Why Kimberlie Ivey-Liccardi Included MSK in Her Estate Planning
As a child, Kimberlie Ivey-Liccardi used to tag along for her mother’s MSK appointments. She has fond memories of eating ice cream provided by the nurses and exploring the hospital’s endless hallways. After her mother recovered from her blood disorder, Kimberlie almost missed their regular trips to the Upper East Side.
Years later, Kimberlie discovered that she had minor rectal bleeding. She was 45 and an avid runner, biker, swimmer, and weight lifter — and mother to a 2-year-old — so cancer never crossed her mind. As it turned out, she had stage 3B young onset colorectal cancer. She called her mother immediately, who referred her to a team of oncologists at MSK with expertise in treating young people with this disease.
The road was long, with surprises along the way, but “my doctors met every challenge,” she says. In 2022, Kimberlie reached an important milestone: five years of being cancer-free.
Colorectal cancer is on the rise among people under the age of 50. To help fight this alarming trend, Kimberlie decided to include MSK in her estate plans. “I want to ensure that medical teams like the one that helped me have resources to not only fight cancer but support young people who still have full lives ahead of them,” she says.