One of the more sobering statistics of pancreatic cancer is the fact there are so few survivors of this disease to tell their story and advocate for increased research.
As a result, those who tirelessly volunteer their time and energy to further this cause are the family members and friends who have lost a loved one to pancreatic cancer, or those in the medical profession dedicated to making substantial advances in early diagnostic tests and treatments.
WINGS OF HOPE for Pancreatic Cancer Research was founded by Maureen Shul in honor of her mother, Blanche, and brother, Victor, both of whom she lost to pancreatic cancer.
While then Mayor of the City of Castle Pines, Maureen was constantly at Victor’s side from the time of his diagnosis until his courageous four year fight with the disease ended in May 2009. Months after losing her brother, Maureen’s mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, this in addition to the Alzheimer’s disease she had been diagnosed with eight years earlier. Three months later in January 2010, Blanche Shul passed away from pancreatic cancer, never cognizant of the fact her son had succumbed to the same relentless disease just months earlier.
As a result of what her mother and brother endured, Maureen continues to raise awareness and research funding through WINGS OF HOPE for Pancreatic Cancer Research for the pancreatic cancer research and treatments taking place at the University of Colorado Cancer Center.
Maureen currently leads a support group for Alzheimer's caregivers and testified before the State Legislature to ensure Colorado Life Trak became a statewide program to help locate persons prone to wander.
Maureen currently is sought by various groups to speak on the lessons of life and leadership she obtained through her experiences as mayor, business owner, community activist and founder of an organization to help fund research and find a cure for one of the deadliest known cancers.
Division Head, Medical Oncology
Professor of Medicine
NCI GI Steering Committee
NCI Colon Cancer Task Force
National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Committee on Colon/Rectal/Anal Cancers
NCCN Investigator Steering Committee
Medical Oncology Committee of the American Board of Internal Medicine
Dr. Messersmith is focused on clinical and translational cancer research, and is a key participant in the multi-disciplinary GI cancer clinics, tumor boards, and research endeavors. He serves as a principal investigator in developmental therapeutics, working on targeted therapies. Dr. Messersmith is involved on NCI and national committees where he collaborates across cancer centers to set treatment guidelines that are used internationally.
Dr. Messersmith joined the University of Colorado School of Medicine faculty in August 2007 as the Director of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology as well as an active participant in the Drug Development Program. He trained in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital / Harvard Medical School and did his Medical Oncology / Drug Development Fellowship at Johns Hopkins, where he was on the faculty from 2004-2007 as Assistant Professor in the GI Oncology and Drug Development programs.
Dr. Messersmith is focused on clinical and translational cancer research and is the director of the Gastrointestinal (GI) Medical Oncology Program. This comprehensive program includes multi-disciplinary GI cancer clinics, tumor boards, and research endeavors. Dr. Messersmith’s laboratory is funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI, R01) and he serves as the principal investigator on numerous national and local therapeutic trials. He is an active investigator in the developmental therapeutics laboratory, working on novel targeted therapies as well as correlative studies for use on human tissue samples. Dr. Messersmith is a member of multiple national committees, including NCI GI Steering Committee, NCI Colon Cancer Task Force, National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Committee on Colon/Rectal/Anal Cancers (which sets treatment guidelines used internationally), NCCN Investigator Steering Committee, Medical Oncology Committee of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM), and others.
Dr. Karyn Goodman is a board-certified radiation oncologist specializing in cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, including malignancies of the esophagus, stomach, pancreas, and liver as well as colorectal and anal cancers. Dr. Goodman moved to University of Colorado from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York to join the Department of Radiation Oncology as a Professor and serves as the Associate Director of Clinical Research in the University of Colorado Cancer Center. Dr. Goodman obtained her undergraduate and medical degrees from Stanford University. She completed her residency training in Radiation Oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and earned a Masters in Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in 2006. Dr. Goodman’s interests include image-guide radiation therapy, stereotactic body radiotherapy, and intensity modulated radiotherapy treatment planning for gastrointestinal cancers with the intent of reducing toxicity and improving results with radiation therapy. She has also focused her research on quality of life and late effects after radiotherapy. In addition to her interest in technical advances in radiation oncology, she is involved in the development of therapeutic protocols combining radiation, chemotherapy, and targeted agents for gastrointestinal cancers. Dr. Goodman is an internationally recognized expert in Gastrointestinal Cancer and has served in numerous leadership roles on multiple ASTRO, ASCO, and RTOG/NRG committees. She serves as the national Radiation Oncology principal investigator of the RTOG/NRG 0848 study, a phase III trial evaluating the use of post-operative radiotherapy for pancreatic cancer. She is the national Study Chair for the recently completed CALGB/Alliance Cooperative Group phase II trial (CALGB 80803) investigating PET scan-directed therapy for esophageal cancer. She has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles, review articles, and chapters.
Lauren Ambrozic is the Executive Director of the Colorado Prevention Alliance, a unique public-private collaborative of health plans and other stakeholders focused on prevention of chronic disease across Colorado. Ms. Ambrozic has a 25 year background in human resources, leadership development, workplace violence prevention, and fostering prevention activities in organizations including Mayo Clinic, the Threat Assessment Group, The American Cancer Society, and MediaOne. Ms. Ambrozic received her BA from University of Colorado, Boulder and a Masters in Counseling Psychology from the University of Notre Dame.
In these roles she has seen first-hand the power of prevention, the inspiration of survivors as well as the grace and humanity of people and physicians collaborating to fight disease. On a personal level, one of her favorite humans and close family friends, Jim Comerford, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer several years ago. Already passionate about preventing and fighting cancer, this brought the battle even closer to home. Lauren is grateful to join Jim and the rest of the Wings of Hope Board in efforts to increase awareness of pancreatic cancer, of early detection, and raise the critical funds for research to treat this devastating disease.
Jim Comerford is a pancreatic cancer survivor, one of only 5% of those diagnosed with this disease to survive. Jim attributes his survival to his timely diagnosis and successful surgery (Whipple Procedure) at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Grand Junction in September, 2010, and to the excellent chemo-radiation and follow-up care he has received at the University of Colorado Cancer Center. Jim and his wife, Janet, are passionate about increasing awareness of pancreatic cancer and the critical importance of early detection. They also want to share the good news – that the world class treatment and research programs at the University of Colorado Cancer Center, in cooperation with other leading hospitals in the region, are creating better outcomes and increasing hope in the battle against this leading cancer killer. Jim and Janet live in Grand Junction, CO.
Stephanie Ludwig is a Software Engineer with Lockheed Martin and holds a masters degree in Information Science from the University of Iowa. She has resided in Colorado for the past 30 years, with the exception of three years in Montana during the 1990’s. She has been active with various community and national organizations, most notably Special Olympics Colorado, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Stephanie’s husband, Paul, passed away in December 2016, after a four-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Paul was an active and supposedly healthy 57 year old marathoner and cyclist who had just received glowing results on his annual physical exam. Just a few months after that, Paul started having severe stomach pains, which his doctor treated with only over the counter antacid medicine. Paul and Stephanie were both completely unaware of the warning signs of pancreatic cancer, and so never suspected anything worse than possibly an ulcer. Once his stage 4 cancer was finally diagnosed, Paul entered a clinical trial at the University of Colorado Cancer Center and was provided with wonderful care during his four months of treatment. Stephanie’s goal is to raise funding for pancreatic cancer research being conducted at the University of Colorado Cancer Center. Additionally, she wants to honor the message that Paul gave to his friends and family during his final weeks: to “listen to your body”and to take aggressive action when you suspect something is not right. Through involvement with Wings of Hope for Pancreatic Cancer Research and promoting awareness of the warning signs of pancreatic cancer, Stephanie’s hope is that other people afflicted by pancreatic cancer will have enough information to listen to what their bodies are telling them and to seek early treatment.
Melanie Avner is an independent writing and editing professional with more than 15 years experience in public relations and marketing. When Melanie lost her mother, Jean Crua Wallace, to pancreatic cancer in 2008 after only a four-month battle with the disease, Melanie used her training and background in communications to help raise awareness about pancreatic cancer. Melanie appeared on Fox 31 News twice, had an opinion piece published in the Denver Post and was featured on a local radio program to educate people about the warning signs of pancreatic cancer and the lack of federal funding available to fight this deadly disease.
Melanie currently writes and edits a variety of communications materials, including Web site copy, fund raising appeals, press releases, and social media content for clients in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors. Melanie lives in Denver with her husband and two children.
Dr. Kathryn Haber lost her father, Calvin Bowker, to pancreatic cancer in September of 2003. He was diagnosed 10 months earlier at the age of 71 years old and chose not to receive treatment. Kathryn’s older sister, Deborah Whitman, passed away a year later of breast cancer at the age of 49. Three years after her sister’s passing, Kathryn was diagnosed with lymphoma and is now a 7 year survivor. Today, Kathryn’s 52 year old brother, Calvin Bowker, Jr., is battling stage IV pancreatic cancer in Boston, although he is looking to participate in clinical trials at University of Colorado’s Cancer Center. As a result of this family history of cancer, Kathryn recently joined the board of Wings of Hope for Pancreatic Cancer Research and is passionate about raising awareness and monies for this devastating disease that, unfortunately, does not have the same recognition and financial support as other cancers.
Kathryn is a licensed clinical psychologist, consultant, coach, facilitator, and behavioral health and wellness instructor in the arenas of organizational transformation, leadership and talent development. She has over 15 years of experience in the industry. Given her desire to help patients and families who are fighting cancer, she is looking to leverage her clinical skills and personal experience into the field of psycho-oncology to help make a difference in these patient and families’ lives. Kathryn is also an active member of FORCE, Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered. She lives in Denver with her husband and three boys and counts each day as a true blessing.
Stacy is working on getting her bio to us and it will be posted here soon. Stay tuned.
JOIN THE EFFORT…BE A PART OF THE POSSIBLE, BE THE HOPE.