Runner Profile: Pier Paolo Pandolfi, MD, PhD
Director, Cancer Center and Cancer Research Institute at BIDMC
Running for those who endure a different kind of marathon
For Pier Paolo Pandolfi, MD, PhD, Director of the Cancer Center and the Cancer Research Institute at BIDMC, running a marathon reflects a set of values that have helped guide him throughout his career and his life.
“One of the most important aspects of being a marathon runner is managing your body and your pain,” he says. “There’s a component of looking within yourself and trying to find strength.”
“There’s also a point where you realize how other people can help you. The most uplifting moment is when you’re completely drained and the support of the crowd keeps you going. The crowd helps you physically — you can feel how much that kind of support can do to your body.”
Whether “the crowd” is cheering runners along Boylston Street — or offering quiet support along a cancer patient’s bedside — the similarities in their effect are apparent. For Pandolfi, a runner who lost both parents to cancer, developed a cure for a once-fatal form of leukemia, and spends every day in pursuit of the next cure, the similarities are striking.
“Cancer research is, for me, a personal quest. I know firsthand about the deep sorrow and suffering that this disease brings, having lost my own parents, along with many dear friends and colleagues, to its devastating effects,” he says.
“But I also know that this is an unprecedented time of discovery in cancer, particularly in the area of personalized therapies. Early in my career, I had the privilege of directly participating in genetic research that led to the cure of a rare, once-fatal form leukemia. So I know cancer can be cured because we have done it before. And, with the expertise and knowledge we have in hand, I know we can do it again.”
A six-time marathoner who has completed the 26.2 mile journey in Rome, London and New York, Pandolfi feels honored to run his first Boston Marathon as part of this year’s BIDMC team. Over the past few months, he has completed some of the most serious training of his running career, lacing up his sneakers five times a week, and recently completing a 20-mile training run.
“Marathon Day will never be the same for the medical center and for all of my colleagues who came together as a united front to best serve our patients after last year’s bombing," he says. "Running this race is my way of showing solidarity for this incredible group of people that provides this extraordinary type of care every day, and for the innocent people who suffered and died that tragic Monday.”
Last year’s tragic events were truly close to home for Pandolfi. He resides just blocks from the explosions — so close that the shock wave cracked the window frames at his home.
“We were in the middle of the entire scene,” he says. But, he looks forward to the emotions of Marathon Monday, when the City of Boston again pulls together to support one another.
“I recognize that from adversity and struggle come strength,” he says. “I have seen clinicians, researchers, and most of all, patients look in the face of cancer and battle against it, with grace and knowledge. I have seen a hospital and a city look in the face terror and rise above it, with dignity and compassion. And I could not be more proud and more humbled.”
TeamBIDMC|Tread Strong: the 2014 Boston Marathon Team
Funds donated on behalf of Pier Paolo Pandolfi will benefit the cancer research at BIDMC. BIDMC’s newly launched Cancer Research Institute consolidates and strengthens research efforts within the Cancer Center, capitalizing on the unique expertise and creativity of BIDMC’s cancer investigators.
To donate to Pier Paolo or any BIDMC runner, visit bidmctreadstrong.org.
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Our colleagues in the Social Work Center for Violence Prevention and Recovery have worked with patients, family members and staff who have experienced trauma. They have created some resources that you may find helpful as we think about the Boston Marathon bombing anniversary.
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