School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine

Students launch White Coat Mustache Challenge for 'Movember' cancer campaign

Medical students are raising money and growing mustaches for the "Movember" movement.

Medical students are raising money and growing mustaches for the "Movember" movement.

The mustaches are back.

A dedicated group of Wayne State University School of Medicine students have vowed to stop shaving their upper lips the entire month of November, all in the name of men’s health.

“Movember” is a national movement that raises awareness and funds for prostate and testicular cancer initiatives. Men are encouraged to grow full mustaches throughout the month, turning themselves into walking conversation starters and collecting donations for charity.

Movember was started in 2003 by a group of Australian friends. It quickly went viral across the world, with more than 854,000 participants soliciting $126.3 million in donations in 2011. The proceeds, collected by independent teams like the one at WSU, benefit The Prostate Cancer Foundation and The LiveStrong Foundation.

Fourth-year medical student Andrew Vollman, Class of 2013, brought the project to WSU in his first year. Donations were steady but small the first two years. But in 2011, Vollman and his classmates challenged the medical students at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan in a friendly fundraising contest. Collectively, they raised $15,000.

Vollman and team upped the ante this year by contacting medical schools across the country. The result is the first “White Coat Mustache Challenge.” Ten schools are fighting for bragging rights, including MSU and U of M, as well as Duke University School of Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University Jefferson Medical College, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Medicine and others.

Competitors are encouraged to style their ’stache any way they like, curling, waxing or twirling it all in the name of men’s cancer awareness, Vollman said. “At first it’s a funny thing. Then it becomes a walking billboard or a conversation starter,” said Vollman, whose father, Dennis, was diagnosed with prostate cancer five years ago.

The cancer continues to be in remission, and his father, a radiologist, continues to practice medicine.

Vollman stressed that anyone is welcome to join their whisker-happy team. “We’d be more than happy to have anyone in the Wayne State community or the Detroit community,” he said. Women can and do get involved, collecting donations without the extra facial hair that comes with it. “Hopefully it’s as contagious as it was last year,” Vollman said.

Arjun Gowda, a Class of 2015 medical student and second-year Movember participant, will collect donations from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Scott Hall cafeteria every Thursday in November except Thanksgiving. He encourages faculty and staff to get involved as well, and for students who can’t donate to step up and stop shaving. “If you can’t donate, join the group,” he said.

Donations will be collected through Nov. 30. Go to http://us.movember.com/team/419589 for more information and to donate to the 55-member WSU team.
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