The Greater Impact of Nelson Mandela, John Wayne and Anton Bilchik

What do the families of Nelson Mandela and John Wayne have in common?

Although they live in vastly different geographies and seem to have greatly varied heritage, these families have been joined in a deep bond by choosing a unique path to continue their father’s legacies. I recently had the great pleasure of meeting the Wayne family, who honor their patriarch’s memory by supporting cancer research through the John Wayne Cancer Institute. This past week, the Institute held their annual Odyssey Ball. It was remarkable to see the legendary actor’s children and grandchildren talk so passionately about Wayne’s life’s work and focused efforts to create cancer awareness and to find medical cures.

Also deeply moving this year, the Wayne family honored the Mandela family with the Institute’s “True Grit” Award. The award marked the family’s unwavering support for Mandela in his fight to end apartheid and create a peaceful democracy in South Africa. Click here to view the video. To view the images, click here and use password: JWCIA2014 then select “all” to view all images.

Mandela’s granddaughters Zaziwe and Swati received the award on their grandfather’s behalf.  I was particularly moved by their comments that characterized cancer as a “social injustice.” They briefly reflected on their family’s collective battle with cancer, citing their grandfather’s prostate cancer and their younger sister’s fight with breast cancer. Click here to view the video.

And, I was so proud that the Institute’s Duke Special Service Award for cancer research and community service went to my brother, Dr. Anton Bilchik.  Anton serves as a Professor of Surgery and the Chief of Medicine at John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center. Click here to see my summary of Dr. Mandela’s dramatic career,  Anton’s wonderful reflections in his acceptance speech, and my nephew  Dean’s humorous tribute to his father. The theme of the event was “Hope Springs Eternal.” It truly does.