A Healthy Lifestyle and Comforting Care can Make Cancer History


IACAN Board members, from left: Dr. Jagan Sastry, Vijaya Sista, Deepika Varia, Kumari Susarla, Raju Nandagiri, Arlene Mathew, Dr. Lakshmi Koyyalagunta, Sarvesh Bhavaraju, and Suresh Agrawal at the third biannual gala of the Indian American Cancer Network on, Saturday, September 17, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
Photos: Bijay Dixit


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HOUSTON:  The third biannual gala of the Indian American Cancer Network was celebrated this past Saturday, September 17, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Medical Center on Kirby Drive in the shadow of the NRG Stadium. Over 350 guests came to enjoy the over three-hour program which started with a social hour (with food catered by Bombay Brasserie) and moved to the main ballroom for the rest of the items.

The evening began with a melodious invocation song by Mani Sastry after which Padmini Nathan, Kumari Susarla, and Lakshmi Parameswaran lighted the ceremonial lamps. Indian Consul General, Anupam Ray (who made the rounds that evening to at least two other events), an advisory board member, said he appreciated the marvelous services IACAN provides, adding that he and his wife Dr. Amit Goldberg want to become active members and help IACAN in its endeavors.


The President of IACAN, Kumari Susarla, commended the founders of the non-profit for building such a wonderful organization. “In the last seven years of its young life, under three past presidents, IACAN has organized informative education programs, survivor activities and Bone Marrow drives”, said Susarla who praised the volunteers.

She noted that volunteers have helped IACAN conduct 100 BM drives in the last 7 years, registering over 4,000 donors. For its efforts, IACAN has been recognized with the 2016 leadership award by the National Marrow Donor Program. Susarla announced that IACAN was launching the Spirituality Project in hospitals to pass out spiritual books and have patients receive visits by persons who have spiritual knowledge.


Archarya Gaurang Nanavaty

Gala Chair Dr. Padmini Nathan captured the essence of the evening when she declared that about 50% of cancers are preventable. Archarya Gaurang Nanavaty of the Chinmaya Mission presented a thought-provoking speech adding “like the waves of the ocean, ups and downs are integral part of life. Spirituality can be a beacon of light that will enable us to navigate through the hard times of life.”

Prevention was also echoed in the keynote speech by Dr. Thomas A. Buchholtz, Executive Vice President and Physician-in-Chief of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center who stood in for Dr. Ronald DePinho, President of MDACC who was called away at the last minute. “Unfortunately, more and younger men and women are being diagnosed with diseases such as prostate and breast cancer,” Bucholtz added. “Statistics show that, today in America, 1 out of 2 men and 1 out of 3 women will be diagnosed with cancer, and 1 out 4 people will lose their lives to cancer.”


Dr. Rathna Kumar

The gala recognized those people who have helped IACAN reach its achievements. In collaboration with the Gulf Coast Blood Center, IACAN has been registering healthy donors for the Bone Marrow transplant program, with Gaytri Kapoor as the liaison. Six bone marrow donors were presented with plaques and one young recipient was recognized.

IACAN also honored Dr. P.G. Parameswaran and Dr. Sen Pathak with Lifetime Service Awards for their leadership roles. Treasurer Suresh Agrawal delivered a heartfelt vote of thanks. Tribute was made to the late Sarma Susarla, with an Exceptional Public Service Medal and fond respect shown to the late Meena Agrawal, a former board member.


The large hall erupted with laughter as MD Anderson’s Rev. Dr. Stephen Findley demonstrated the power of laughter yoga in overcoming pain and depression which often accompany a cancer diagnosis. He transformed the evening into a fun-filled interactive delight. And to cap it off, enthusiastic young volunteers used a fun fund-raiser called “balloon pop” to help the gala raise funds.