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April 2010 Issue

St. Baldwicks
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Medical Students Boldly Go Bald for St. Baldrick's Cancer Fundraiser

By Angela Koenig
Published April 2010

It’s only hair, right? Perhaps in theory—especially when you’re shaving it all off for a great cause—but there was still an element of anxiety as UC College of Medicine students lined up March 12 to go bald for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation pediatric cancer fundraiser.

Named for a fusion of "St. Patrick’s Day” and "bald,” the St. Baldrick’s Foundation coordinates worldwide head-shaving events to raise money for childhood cancer research. The UC event was coordinated by medical students in the pediatrics and oncology clubs.

More than 50 medical students and their supporters raised approximately $19,000 through sponsorships.

"It’s not as bad as I thought it would be. It’s really weird but it’s kind of fun to touch,” Jennifer Kirsop remarked after her "barber,” Laura Wexler, MD, professor of cardiology and senior associate dean of student affairs, sheared off Kirsop’s long locks.

Says Wexler: "I think we underestimate the degree to which hair is an important part of our identity. This shows solidarity for people on chemo; you get into their experience, into their space.”

Kirsop was one of three female first-year students, including Wendy Chen and Reema Sultan, who went bald for the St. Baldrick’s cause and also donated their hair to nonprofits that make real hair wigs for cancer patients.

"I’m going to miss my hair but if I didn’t then it wouldn’t be a sacrifice,” Kirsop added.

The event was especially significant for their fellow medical student Matt Wilkening, whose son Eli, 3, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in April 2008. Eli is now in remission, but Wilkening is still committed to raising pediatric awareness.

"‘No Slack,’ that’s our slogan when it comes to pediatric cancer,” says Wilkening.

Since 2000, St. Baldrick’s has raised more than $69 million by hosting more than 2,500 events and shaving more than 108,000 heads in 24 countries and all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Each year, 160,000 children across the globe are diagnosed with cancer.

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