UMN Clinicians and Researchers Hit the Hardwood to Fight Cancer

“I’m running more, adding in a few more practice basketball games,” laughed Christopher Weight, MD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Urology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. “Have to be ready for the big game!”

Christopher Weight, MD, is one of five University of Minnesota Physician providers getting ready to hit the hardwood at U.S. Bank Stadium, mere hours before the NCAA athletes take the court. As a huge fan of the sport, Weight admits that alone is an honor, but what’s really fueling him for the Friday morning game is the meaning behind it.

The INFINITI Hardwood Heroes Basketball Game, benefitting Coaches vs Cancer, started in 2016, and raises money for the fight against cancer. Each year, cancer survivors are chosen to go head-to-head in a game coached by retired NCAA coaches. This year, for the first time, doctors, nurses, researchers and caregivers are joining the teams.

“I am inspired to be playing alongside survivors, and fellow researchers, providers and caregivers, all acting as a united force against cancer,” said Weight, M Health Urologic Surgeon and Masonic Cancer Center member, “Cancer is typically laden with worry and concern, and pain and suffering, an event like this, driven by motivation and excitement is inspiring.”

Through fundraising and education initiatives, the Coaches vs. Cancer program has supported the American Cancer Society in improving and saving lives from cancer nationwide and globally.

“I love the idea of the fusion of a healthy lifestyle and the battle against cancer perfectly combining in this way,” said Weight.

There will be 10 clinicians and researchers playing on Friday, April 5th, at 10:30 am. Five are from the University of Minnesota. Playing alongside Dr. Weight will be:  

  • Karli McGill, FNP-BC, M Health Certified nurse practitioner Hematology, Oncology
  • Karim Sadak, MD, MPH, MSE, Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the Medical School, M Health Hematologist/Oncologist and Masonic Cancer Center member
  • Annie Barlow, PA-C, M Health Physician Assistant, Hematology
  • Elizabeth Neil, MD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology at the Medical School, M Health Neuro-Oncologist and Masonic Cancer Center Member

“Hardwood Heroes” as these men and women are called, are selected through a mix of recruiting efforts from the American Cancer Society and from the local market of each year’s NCAA men’s basketball championship game.  The only requirements are that the individual is a cancer survivor, or involved in cancer care or research, has a passion for basketball and is over the age of 18.

This year’s team will be coached by two legendary retired NCAA Head Coaches - Bo Ryan (retired head coach for Wisconsin) and Jim Calhoun (retired head coach for Connecticut), who is a cancer survivor himself.

“I always find it interesting how cancer can hit any of us - rich, poor, young, old, even high level athletes,” remarked Weight. “What we know is that research into cancer, specifically biomedical research,  is the best way we can spend our money to reduce the burden of morbidity of cancer around the world.”

It is free and open to the public. It will take place Friday morning at U.S. Bank Stadium, in between practice rounds for the NCAA® men’s basketball championship games. Coaches vs. Cancer is a collaboration of the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the American Cancer Society.

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