Gala for Life Breaks Record, Raises $1.2 Million for UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute

By Susan Van Dusen

Complete with a Wizard of Oz theme, the black-tie event raised a record-setting amount of more than $1.2 million to benefit the institute’s efforts to achieve National Cancer Institute (NCI) Designation.

Gala for Life toast

Guests including Gov. Asa Hutchinson and his wife, Susan, raise a glass in honor of the new UAMS Cancer Institute Director Michael Birrer, M.D., Ph.D.Bryan Clifton

“The Gala for Life has a long history of being one of the most exciting fundraisers in the state. Over the past 24 years, it has raised millions of dollars to support research and clinical care for the patients of the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute,” said UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA.

Patterson, along with his wife, Kris Patterson, M.D., an infectious disease specialist, served as the event’s honorary co-chairs. KATV news anchor Chris May was master of ceremonies.

“We are thankful to the Pattersons for their leadership and to our sponsors for their support of the Gala for Life. The funds raised by this fabulous event will assist us in coming even closer to our goal of achieving NCI Designation,” said Laura Hutchins, M.D., Cancer Institute interim director.

NCI Designation is awarded through a highly competitive assessment process during which cancer centers must demonstrate outstanding depth and breadth of high-quality cancer research. Receiving designation brings substantial benefits, including the ability to access federal research funding and offer clinical trials not available to non-designated centers. It also is expected to result in a $72 million economic impact on Arkansas and create about 1,500 new jobs over five years.

Gala for Life band

The Emerald City Band brought guests to the dance floor.Mark Matthews

The event also featured a surprise announcement by Patterson that medical oncologist Michael Birrer, M.D., Ph.D., was named UAMS Cancer Institute director and would join the university by the end of 2019.

“Dr. Birrer is an internationally recognized expert in gynecological cancers and has held leadership positions at the National Cancer Institute, Harvard School of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital and the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. He is the phenomenal leader we need for our state’s Cancer Institute,” Patterson said.

The Gala for Life featured a cocktail reception, dinner, dancing and live entertainment by the Emerald City Band. Celgene and Highlands Oncology Group served as Visionary Sponsors. The Pat and Willard Walker Charitable Foundation was Pioneer Sponsor.

View photos of the event here.