Golden Gala guests were greeted by a Spirit of Detroit-like statue decorated with a doctor's bag and stethoscope.
Saturday’s Golden Gala benefit at the Detroit Marriott hotel celebrated donors who contributed $1,705,232 for the Wayne State University School of Medicine to support student scholarships and student organizations and activities.
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The event, themed “A Salute to Detroit: When Old Meets New,” also honored three of the school’s most extraordinary researchers and physicians.
They included the Ambassador Award to Distinguished Professor of Medicine Ananda Prasad, M.D., Ph.D., director of Research in the school’s Division of Hematology-Oncology and best known for his pioneering studies in the 1960s that established the essentially of zinc to human nutrition.
This year’s Trailblazer Award went to Professor of Neurology, Immunology and Microbiology Robert Lisak, M.D., a leading investigator in the field of neuroimmunology , including basic, clinical and translational research in multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, immune neuropathies and neurologic complications of systemic autoimmune diseases. His 2012 finding of a new factor suspected in MS progression could lead to new targeted therapies in treatment.
Sanford Cohen, M.D., a retired longtime Pediatrics faculty member and former WSU provost who traveled from Florida to attend, received the Distinguished Service Award. He entered the U.S. Army as a captain in the Medical Corps, and was assigned to Walter Reed Hospital and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization Medical Research Lab in Bangkok, Thailand in 1964. Dr. Cohen established a clinical research center for the study of dengue hemorrhagic fever among Thai children, and later founded the WSU Center of Academic Ethics, the first in the nation.
The trio was lauded by more than 450 physicians, School of Medicine students, community leaders, business leaders, local dignitaries and WSU faculty and staff. Longtime Detroit broadcast personality Cynthia Canty, an Emmy-winning television reporter, anchor and current host of 97.1-FM Michigan Radio’s “Stateside with Cynthia Canty,” produced and narrated a video chronicling the honorees’ childhoods, medical careers and journey to WSU.
Guests mingled at a cocktail reception with live music before sitting down for dinner and a program hosted by Fox 2 (WJBK-TV) television’s evening news and “Let it Rip” host Huel Perkins, who started the evening with a rather rousing interactive pop quiz of historical Detroit facts.
WSU President Allan Gilmour and School of Medicine Dean Valerie M. Parisi, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., addressed the crowd, with Dean Parisi introducing attendees to the outstanding work of the School of Medicine students in the past year, completed through more than 60 student organizations. They include the Robert R. Frank Student-Run Free Clinic, founded in 2009 by the Class of 2012 to provide free primary care to Detroit’s underserved and uninsured; Open Source Medicine, which operates on the tenet that all medical knowledge should be free and created a computer program for health fairs and community screenings called My Health Record; and the school’s World Student Health Organization chapter, whose members volunteer for annual medical missions to remote regions such as Tanzania, Peru and Haiti.
“Our students are truly the change they want to see in the world,” she told the crowd. “It is in many of these voluntary organizations that our medical students learn the value of compassionate healing for those most in need, just one facet of the many it takes to be a Wayne State University physician.”
Dean Parisi also reminded guests that the event was a salute to their support of the school. “You are that thoughtful group of committed citizens who are changing the world,” she said. “And we could not do it without you.”