Cancer Research Foundation Honors Award Recipients

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The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation will honor its awards recipients during its annual Awards Dinner, on Monday, March 2 for their hard work in the mission to cure mesothelioma.

The award recipients will be honored for their dedicated work and commitment to the mission to cure mesothelioma.

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) will present its annual awards at the International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma on Monday, March 2. The Awards Dinner will be held at the Hyatt Regency Bethesda in Bethesda, Maryland. The following award recipients will be honored for their dedicated work and commitment to the mission to cure mesothelioma.

The Klaus Brauch Volunteer of the Year Award will be presented to Miriam Ratner. Miriam runs the Meso Foundation’s monthly spousal loss support group and counsels on a one-on-one basis as needed. She has a very positive outlook that is catching and has been a perfect fit with those who have lost loved one in the mesothelioma community, no matter what stage they are in. The mesothelioma community has been touched by her continued support to family members and the Meso Foundation is honored to thank her for her work.

The Compassion Award will be presented to Reverend George Winchester, SJ. Reverend Winchester delivers pastoral care to mesothelioma patients and their families while working at Brigham Women’s Hospital. He provides immediate support and maintains relationships with family members for years to come. The mesothelioma community has been blessed by Rev. Winchester and the care and compassion he gives to each person he meets. He has also served the community at the Meso Foundation’s annual Symposium both with running the Tribute Ceremony and offering prayer and comfort.

The June Breit and Jocelyn Farrar Outstanding Nurse Award will be presented to Joanne Redondo, UPMC CancerCenter. In January, the Meso Foundation introduced its second annual campaign to choose a recipient of the June Breit and Jocelyn Farrar Outstanding Nurse Award. The foundation began seeking a recipient through a nomination process, and community members submitted nominations for nurses who positively impact their lives. After receiving numerous nominations, five finalists were selected. The foundation then let the community decide on the winner through a voting process. It provided short biographies and photos for each finalist and asked the community to vote for the nurse who they thought should receive the Outstanding Nurse Award. Nearly eight hundred votes later, there was a winner: Joanne Redondo, a nurse who has worked with mesothelioma patients in the surgical oncology field through her nursing career of 32 years.

The Pioneer Award will be presented to Valerie W. Rusch, MD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. Rusch has been a pioneer in the field of thoracic surgery with a focus on improving the outcomes of surgical procedures for malignant mesothelioma. Dr. Rusch entered the field when female surgeons were few and rose to prominence due to her keen intellect and surgical prowess. She held the position of Chief of Thoracic Surgery at MSKCC from 2000-2013. Dr. Rusch provides personal care and support to each patient she sees and has been instrumental in establishing a staging system for mesothelioma. A review of this system, which was partially funded by the Meso Foundation, is currently underway and will positively impact the clinical care of mesothelioma patients. Dr. Rusch has worked tirelessly on this new initiative. The Meso Foundation is proud to honor her work and her commitment on behalf of mesothelioma patients worldwide.

The Bruce Vento Hope Builder Award will be presented to James A. Grogan, Jr., General President, International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers (Formerly Asbestos Workers). The insulators, with one in ten of their workers affected by asbestos-related diseases, are at an increased risk of developing mesothelioma. In response to these stark statistics, President Grogan and the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers have been leaders in the fight against mesothelioma. The Insulators are not only increasing awareness about mesothelioma and asbestos; they are also funding the research to find effective treatments and a cure. In addition to their financial support of research, education, patient support, and advocacy, the Insulators have recently founded a tissue bank to collect tissues and/or blood serum from volunteer insulators which is a crucial tool for scientists devoted to mesothelioma research. President Grogan has been a loyal ally and powerful advocate for the mesothelioma community, and for that, the Meso Foundation is profoundly grateful.

Mesothelioma is a malignant tumor of the lining of the lung, abdomen, or heart known to be caused by exposure to asbestos. Medical experts consider it one of the most aggressive and deadly of all cancers. An estimated one-third of those who develop mesothelioma were exposed while serving in the Navy or working in shipyards.

The Meso Foundation is the only 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to eradicating mesothelioma and easing the suffering caused by this cancer. The Meso Foundation actively seeks philanthropic support to fund peer-reviewed mesothelioma research; provide patient support services and education; and advocate Congress for increased federal funding for mesothelioma research. The Meso Foundation is the only non-government funder of peer reviewed scientific research to establish effective treatments for mesothelioma and, ultimately, a cure for this extremely aggressive cancer. To date, the Foundation has awarded over $8.7 million to research. More information is available at

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Maja Belamaric
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