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Ovarcome Adds More Support in Fight Against Ovarian Cancer

The Ovarcome Board with chief guests (from left) Chief Events Officer Bhavana Bajaj; Gala Committee Member Joya Shukla; Advisory Board Member Dr. Anirban Maitra; Gala Committee Member Karen Francis; Keynote Speaker MDA President Dr. Ronald DePinho; Special Guest St. Luke’s Sugar Land CEO Robert Heifner; Advisory Board Member Dr. Anil Sood; Ovarcome Board Vice President Dr. Priya Bhosale; Secretary and Chief Medical Counsel Dr. Alpa Nick; Founder & President Runsi Sen and Chief Financial Officer, Supryo Sen.   Photo: Rguetta Photography

The Ovarcome Board with chief guests (from left) Chief Events Officer Bhavana Bajaj; Gala Committee Member Joya Shukla; Advisory Board Member Dr. Anirban Maitra; Gala Committee Member Karen Francis; Keynote Speaker MDA President Dr. Ronald DePinho; Special Guest St. Luke’s Sugar Land CEO Robert Heifner; Advisory Board Member Dr. Anil Sood; Ovarcome Board Vice President Dr. Priya Bhosale; Secretary and Chief Medical Counsel Dr. Alpa Nick; Founder & President Runsi Sen and Chief Financial Officer, Supryo Sen. Photo: Rguetta Photography

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: It was the first gala for this nascent organization which got its beginning only a couple of years ago as a concept that was presented to the Indo-American community through a performance by the Seattle-based Bengali rock band “Brishti”, organized in collaboration with Better Bangla Radio (see IAN dated October 12, 2012).

Appropriately so, as the idea of forming a group that focused on the causes and treatment of ovarian cancer came from a transplanted Bengali from Calcutta who enlisted others to support her vision which was borne out of her own brush with losing her mother Atashi to the dreaded disease in Calcutta in 2009. That singular event marked Runsi Sen’s life and has turned it into a pursuit of helping find a cure for ovarian cancer culminating in forming the non-profit organization aptly called Ovarcome. She is also a strategy consultant with Optimal Strategy Group and lives with husband Supryo and two young sons in Sugar Land.

After two years of Indian rock concerts to raise money, the organization has coalesced its efforts into its first fundraising gala which was held this past Saturday, May 24 at the Houston City Club in Greenway Plaza with an audience that was markedly more diverse but still more than half drawn from the Indo American community. Ovarcome was also recognized with a donation check from the social group Club 24 Plus just two weeks ago (see IAN dated May 16, 2014) and some of its key members like Ashok and Prabha Garg and Juuhi and Prakash Ahuja attended the gala.

The black tie and formal gown event started off with a cocktail hour featuring a silent auction of memorabilia and custom services in the bar area of the club and then moved into the banquet hall where about 200 people heard about the progress that Ovarcome has made in the ensuing two years and dined on food catered by the club.

The program was emceed by Sonia Azad, a reporter with KTRK TV’s Eyewitness News and Lisa Slater and brief remarks introduced Noman Hussain, President of the South Asian Chamber of Commerce who explained the background of Ovarcome and its goals of helping women, raising awareness and raising funds for research in this disease.

“This is possibly the first gala in the region in support of ovarian cancer research”, said Sen when she came to the podium. “We hope to raise awareness of what it is through workshops dealing with diet, lifestyle and genetic consulting and also fund grant requests for research in St. Louis and locally in Memorial Hospital”. The group funds international work in Niarobi, Kenya and the Tata Memorial Hospitals in Calcutta and Mumbai.

She went on to explain that the short term goals are to expand services in Houston by providing treatment options; offering local accommodations to out-of-towners and meeting with civic groups to increase awareness. Ovarcome’s 2025 Vision is to increase the five year survival rate by 30% through these programs, treatment options and research. After the four OC survivors in the room stood up to be recognized, Sen asked everyone to stand and repeat the pledge “we will care, we will cure, we will overcome”.

Robert A. Heifner, CEO of CHI St. Luke’s Hospital, Sugar Land which sponsored the event, spoke about how impressed he was with Sen’s passion for tackling the disease. Dr. Anil Sood, a researcher at MD Anderson Hospital received the Community Service Award and disclosed a frightening statistic that 280,000 women worldwide will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year and 140,000 of them will die. He explained that it would require counseling and aggressive procedures using laparoscopy to remove tumors and then use chemotherapy, which has so far resulted in substantial improvements. “The costs for treatment are high, about $150,000 and insurance has a 15 to 20% co-pay”, he added, “so Ovarcome goals are laudable”.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Ronald A. DePinho, President of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center who appreciated Ovarcome’s goal to bring awareness of this major, dreaded disease which extracts a significant toll while there have been few advances In research and treatment of the cancer. ”When history writes how ovarian cancer was conquered, it will surely note this organization’s role”, he said.

Dr. Alpa Nick and Supryo Sen handed out the Research Grant Awards to four individuals and after an active live auction, which helped the fundraiser close in on its goal of $100,000, entertainment was provided by a piano recital from the Shepherd School of Music followed by a humorous comedy show by ComedySportz.

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