The GI Research Foundation’s 57th annual Ball, the Laugh-a-Ball, was a triumphant night of support for the future of research in digestive diseases at the University of Chicago Medicine. Co-chaired by philathropists Katie Chudnovsky, Beatrice G. Crain, and Aaron Rosdal, the evening raised over 1.5 million dollars for GI research, with funds raised to support for the Translational Core, a foundational cornerstone of scientific research at the University of Chicago Medicine.
With a nod to the paramount importance of patient care, patient stories took center stage. Brad Goodman shared his experience of his life-saving, hepatitis-C-positive liver transplant (see Gut Instinct: Issue 7), offering an inspiring story of hope for those waiting for transplants and living with PSC.
Erika Kielhorn Hefke, now a nurse, detailed her journey from pediatric Crohn’s disease patient, to early immunotherapy recipient, to colon cancer survivor. Hefke attributes her successful treatment and recovery to her physicians and surgeons, including Blase Polite, MD, who exemplified the “UChicago difference.”
Explained Hefke, “At UChicago, the GI oncologist offered two options for my aggressive tumor. National standards called only for surgery. Based on the genetics of my cancer, he suggested complementing surgery with 12 rounds of chemo. Dr. Polite’s protocol is now the national guideline, and I believe his unconventional advice — paired with my surgeon’s expertise — saved my life.”
In his remarks, Medical Director, David T. Rubin, MD, honored Digestive Diseases Alumni Award recipients Laura Raffals, MD (Junior Alumni award), and Robert Bresalier, MD (Walter L. Palmer Senior Mentor award) (see remarks, page 2).
Guests were delighted by comedian Jim Gaffigan, whose trademark good-hearted and wry observational humor was met with lots of laughs from all those in attendance. Once again, Larry King’s Orchestra provided an energetic soundtrack for the evening, and the Chicago Honey Bear Dancers got the crowd moving on the dance floor.
In a memorable and exciting moment , after the traditional fundraising portion of the evening had concluded, emcee Steve Weiss, with the help of auctioneer Greg Dellinger, opened bidding again, continuing to the $100 and $50 level, enabling nearly everyone in attendance to raise their paddle and contribute to GI research.
The GI Research Foundation’s newest employee, Elise Kozal, attended the Ball for the first time, and was floored by the experience. Said Kozal, “I was truly shocked and touched at the energy in the room. This spectacular ballroom was filled with such splendor and compassion. It felt as though it were a large family gathering. We’ve received nothing but positive feedback from our guests, so I’d say the night was a great success!”