ACS ResearcHERS: Uniting Feminist Philanthropy and Cancer Research

ResearcHERS brings together women leaders and medicine to raise money for research on cancer. (Image credit: ACS)

There is an old “riddle” that used to circulate in the early 2000s in which a father and son are critically injured in a car accident and rushed to the hospital. The hospital workers do everything they can to save the father, but he dies under their care. When the son is prepped for his life-saving surgery, the attending doctor stops dead and declares, “I can’t perform the procedure — I cannot operate on my own son.” How is this possible?

The answer? The doctor is a woman — the son’s mother — and that is why she is unwilling to perform the surgery. The difficulty of the “riddle” comes from the guesser’s automatic presumption that the doctor in question has to be a man — because, of course, only men are qualified to be surgeons, right?

For generations, women have had to fight against inherent prejudices just to get the medical care they need, let alone to become the caregivers. In the years since this riddle first went around, women from all over the world have worked to dismantle the assumption that lofty careers as surgeons, scientists, astronauts, and engineers are reserved for men. And now, fundraising campaigns are starting to close the gap between women-led research programs and the funding they need to achieve scientific breakthroughs, eradicate disease, and inspire the next generation of girl scientists.

The American Cancer Society in Illinois recently announced ResearcHERS: Women Fighting Cancer, a fundraising and empowerment program that appoints prominent female Ambassadors to fundraise, share scientific discoveries, and promote women in research. Committing to a fundraising goal of $2,500, these Ambassadors use their online and industry clout to spread the word about applicable research programs, raise money for other women in healthcare, and donate funds directly to cancer research efforts led by women.

“One in three Americans will battle cancer in their lifetime,” reads the ResearcHERS website. “It can be hard to believe that a single person can make a difference. But funding just one research breakthrough, or one study with the right outcome, could potentially save thousands of lives. ResearcHERS is a movement that engages women to raise funds that directly support cancer researchers—women cancer researchers.”

The American Cancer Society (ACS) has already been identified as a front-runner in feminist-leaning philanthropy. About half of the researchers who receive funding from the ACS are women, and the ACS emphasizes funding for researchers who are early in their careers or beginning early research, when funding can be difficult to secure but can also lead to significant scientific breakthroughs.

Headed by Co-Chairs Cheryle R. Jackson (SVP Global Business Development & President, AAR) and Michelle M. Le Beau (PhD, Director, University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center), the new ResearcHERS program aims to raise $500,000 in its first year and use the funds to support prominent women in research.

According to the ResearcHERS website, you can get involved by:

  • Learning more about ResearcHERS: Women Fighting Cancer or nominating an influential woman as an Ambassador on the official website;
  • Donating to support women-led cancer research;
  • Sharing the movement on social media and highlighting women researchers on Facebook and YouTube; and
  • Sharing your story using the official hashtags, #ACSResearcHERS, #WomenFightingCancer and #CancerResearch.

Interested in learning more about how feminist philanthropy is impacting women’s healthcare? Discover the impact of a $10 million grant to fund female healthcare leaders at UCLA, or see what happens when a health care foundation, a nonprofit initiative, and a for-profit health information company collaborate to help educate pregnant women around the country.

Author: Maggie May

Maggie May is a small business owner, author, and story-centric content strategist. A Maryland transplant by way of Florida, DC, Ireland, Philadelphia, and -- most recently -- Salt Lake City, she has a passion for finding stories and telling them the way they're meant to be told.

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