I am a stage 4b oral cancer survivor, and had bilateral cervical metastasis of the disease at the time it was discovered. After trying but successful treatments at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, I became a student of the disease. Once it became clear to me that the death rate and the high morbidity of the disease, and the treatments to control it, could be reduced through a national effort in awareness and early discovery screening programs, combined with motivating professionals to provide opportunistic exams, I chose to leave the private sector and work towards those ends. Initially that effort was as a speaker and advocate, but I rapidly realized that an entity that could bring together different components of the needed solutions, and involve more people to accomplish those goals was necessary. The result was the formation of The Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF), and IRS registered 501c3 non-profit charity. While ultimately there will be scientific solutions and treatment advances to many things, and OCF will financially contribute towards their discovery and availability, they are years away. There are tangible, palpable opportunities to reduce the death rate today while those long-term solutions are being explored and created. There is also a much-needed opportunity to help those currently fighting their own battles with this disease, supporting them with vetted, accurate, current, key information that allows them to make the best decisions possible as they travel their path to wellness. OCF started as a seed of an idea in 1999, and my wife Ingrid and I were the original founders and financially capitalized the beginnings of the foundation. Through the support of key oral cancer saveexperts drawn from treatment, education, research, government, and professional medical and dental societies, and thousands of donors and volunteers, that early idea has been nurtured and grown into a powerful national force for proactive change and improved lives.
Besides the responsibilities that you would expect of the head of an organization like ours, I am also a frequent lecturer at universities and professional medical and dental society meetings and cancer conferences. I have often been the face of the foundation and the disease on TV interviews, an advocate for the cause at various government entities such as the CDC, the NCI, and the NIDCR, and have been interviewed on the subject of oral cancer by print media such as The Wall St. Journal, The Boston Globe, USA Today, and many others. I sit on the oral cancer task forces of many other organizations such as the American Academy of Oral Medicine, The American College of Prosthodontics, The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, The International Academy of Oral Oncology, and The Centers for Disease Control Oral Cancer Task Force.
I also work on two National Institutes of Health (NIH) oversight committees; one at the National Cancer Institute, which oversees clinical trials in immunotherapies in head and neck cancers, the other at the NIDCR reviewing trials looking at long-term consequences and outcomes of treatment in head and neck cancers. OCF and I have received numerous awards for our accomplishments. Our strength is developing strategic relationships with partners allied against this disease. Some of the other organizations I am part of on committees and task forces are: College of American Pathologists, HPV / H&N SCC Commission, and their HPV testing guidelines group • American Society of Clinical Oncology, Member • American Academy of Oral Medicine, Member • Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Oral Cancer Work Group • International Academy of Oral Oncology, Member • The Armstrong Foundation Grant Review Committee (past member) • American College of Prosthodontics, Oral Cancer Task Force Member • International Consortium on Head and Neck Cancer Awareness, Founding Member • International Association for Dental Research, Member • American Academy of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, Oral Cancer Task Force Member • American Public Health Association. Member • HPV Action Group (UK), Founding Member.
Simultaneous with my responsibilities at OCF I am the administrator of OCF’s longtime partner, The Bruce Paltrow Oral Cancer Fund, overseen by Actress Blythe Danner (Paltrow) and her children Gwyneth and Jake Paltrow.
Most people that know me understand that the many hours I put into OCF are not a job to me, but rather a passion. While I am often incorrectly credited with much of the positive change that has happened, I am very cognizant that there is nothing that I have done alone, nor without standing on the shoulders of others who facilitate my, and the foundation’s success.