Head-Shaving Event Raises Funds for Cancer Research

June 15, 2011
News Office: Kate Vidinsky (415) 502-6397

It looked like a typical Wednesday evening in San Francisco's Kezar Pub on June 8, as locals gathered to unwind after work and watch the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But walking into the bar's dimly lit back room brought a whole new energy and a different crowd, with more than 100 people crammed into the small space to take part in a very atypical fundraiser.

In a bold demonstration of support for the many children with cancer they have treated over the years, several UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital doctors, as well as hospital staff and community members, had their heads shaved bald to raise money and awareness for childhood cancer research. Over the course of the evening, a dozen people lined up to have their turn in the makeshift barber's chair and watched as their locks fell in clumps to the floor amid onlookers' cheers.

"I've often had to tell my patients that their cancer treatment will make them lose their hair, but it will grow back. And yet, I've never really known how it feels to hear those words," UCSF pediatric cancer specialist Dr. Jason Law said just before losing his thick dark hair. "Today, I understand just a little more."

The event raised $30,000 for the St. Baldrick's Foundation, a nonprofit organization that hosts worldwide events where volunteers collect pledges and shave their heads to support kids with cancer. Since 2007, the St. Baldrick's Foundation has given $770,000 in grants to support UCSF's clinical and basic cancer research programs, with several hundred thousand more expected through future awards.

"We have all been touched by cancer, and we have all known someone affected by this disease," said Dr. Kate Matthay, chief of pediatric oncology at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital and the only woman to have her head shaved that evening. "We are here today to honor those people who have had their lives cut short because of cancer and to stand in solidarity with our brave young patients who continue fighting this disease."

Many local media outlets also came out to cover the event, and Matthay even did a post-shave live Skype interview on NBC Bay Area's evening newscast. Additional coverage appeared on KCBS Radio, KGO-TV, KQED's Bay Area news blog and The Bay Citizen.

Additional UCSF participants in the event included pediatric oncologists Dr. Benjamin Braun, Dr. Steven DuBois and Dr. Robert Goldsby, who also acted as emcee for the evening; Dr. Arthur Ablin, UCSF clinical professor emeritus; JayDe Leonard, analyst in the division of pediatric hematology/oncology; Mitchel Fujita of the department of anesthesia; and Dr. Michael Matthay, professor of medicine and anesthesia.

About UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital

UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital creates an environment where children and their families find compassionate care at the forefront of scientific discovery, with more than 150 experts in 50 medical specialties serving patients throughout Northern California and beyond. The hospital admits about 5,000 children each year, including 2,000 babies born in the hospital. For more information, visit www.ucsfbenioffchildrens.org.