Broadway Actor Davis Gaines Performed;
J.R. Martinez Served as Master of Ceremonies
The Mandela Family was honored with the “True Grit” Humanitarian Award at the 29th annual Odyssey Ball on Saturday, April 5, at the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Beverly Hills. Anton J. Bilchik, MD, PhD, FACS, Professor of Surgery and Chief of Medicine at John Wayne Cancer Institute (JWCI) at Providence Saint John’s Health Center, was presented “The Duke” Special Service Award. The yearly fundraising event benefits JWCI at Providence Saint John’s Health Center and is organized by the JWCI Auxiliary.
The UCLA Gospel Choir opened the evening which also included performances by Broadway actor Davis Gaines who wowed the crowd with his performance of “The Music of the Night” from “The Phantom of the Opera.” Gaines has performed the role of the Phantom more than 2,000 times.
Actor, motivational speaker, author and honored US Army Veteran J.R. Martinez welcomed the more than 580 guests and thanked Odyssey Sponsors, Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson; Visionary Sponsors, the Wayne family; and Platinum Patrons, Gayle and Marc Ezralow, Suzanne and Rob Davidow, Wells Fargo, Carole Zumbro and George Adler family and Providence Health & Services. Martinez introduced JWCI Auxiliary President Anita Swift, granddaughter of John Wayne, who spoke poignantly about her grandfather’s final wish to find a cure for cancer and the work of Donald L. Morton, MD, her grandfather’s physician and creator of the renowned JWCI Surgical Oncology Fellowship Program, who recently passed.
“The Wayne Family is truly honored to present the ‘True Grit’ Award to the Mandela Family,” said Patrick Wayne, Chairman of the Board at JWCI and son of the legendary actor John Wayne. “Their spirit, fortitude and strength in ending apartheid and easing human suffering inspire us all and is unsurpassed as is our commitment to eradicate cancer and provide hope to cancer patients around the globe.”
The Mandela Family was honored with the “True Grit” Award for continuing the mission of former President of South Africa and Nobel Peace Laureate Nelson Mandela who helped bring an end to apartheid. CNN Reporter/Producer Nadia Bilchik, sister of honoree Dr. Bilchik, and Patrick Wayne presented HRH Princess Zaziwe Dlamini-Manaway and HRH Princess Zamaswazi Dlamini, granddaughters of Nelson and Winnie Mandela, necklaces engraved with a quote from their grandfather, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
As global advocates for human and civil rights, democracy, reconciliation, mutual respect and tolerance, the family is preserving the history, heritage and legacy. A member of the African National Congress party beginning in the 1940s, Nelson Mandela was a leader against the white minority’s oppressive regime in a racially divided South Africa. His actions landed him in prison for nearly three decades and made him the face of the anti-apartheid movement both within his country and internationally. His family also suffered under the regime and was imprisoned and sentenced to house arrest. In 1994, Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa, forming a multiethnic government to oversee the country’s transition. The Mandela Family has never wavered in their devotion to democracy, equality and learning. For information, please visit nelsonmandela.org or mandelahouse.co.za.
“It gives us great pleasure to celebrate the remarkable accomplishments of Dr. Bilchik and his commitment to our mission,” said Anita Swift, JWCI Auxiliary President. “His worldwide collaborations and dedication to advance knowledge of cancer research and treatment, embody all that ‘The Duke’ Award symbolizes.”
Also hailing from South Africa, Dr. Bilchk, Professor of Surgery and Chief of Medicine at JWCI, was honored with “The Duke” Special Service Award presented by his son Dean Bilchik. Dr. Bilchik is an internationally recognized surgical oncologist who has pioneered techniques to improve staging in colon cancer and minimally invasive approaches for liver and pancreatic cancer. In 2001, Dr. Bilchik was awarded a major National Cancer Institute (NCI) grant which was successfully renewed. He has continuously led JWCI’s participation in international multicenter clinical trials, the results of which have led to improvements in national quality standards in cancer care. Considered one of the premier figures in modern oncology, he is an active member on the editorial board of four cancer journals and has written over 200 publications. Dr. Bilchik has received numerous awards and accolades, has been honored by the American Cancer Society, the American College of Surgeons and recently by the Anti-Defamation League with its annual “Humanitarian Award.” He has been listed as one of “America’s Top Surgeons” for ten years in a row. He is founder of the California Oncology Research Institute, a nonprofit organization that supports cancer research and education internationally and in underserved communities.
About the John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center
Since 1981, the family of John Wayne has been committed to pioneering cancer research in memory of their father, who died of cancer. For more than 30 years, the courageous and dedicated researchers at JWCI at Providence Saint John’s Health Center have made groundbreaking discoveries that have changed the way cancer is detected, diagnosed and treated around the world. Today, the tradition of excellence continues as JWCI at Providence Saint John’s Health Center spearheads new research advances, while training the next generation of leaders in the fight against cancer through its renowned Surgical Oncology Fellowship Program. The Institute’s programs focus on melanoma, breast, neuro, prostate and gastrointestinal cancers, as well as innovative research in cancer genomics, molecular biomarkers, and chemo- and immunotherapies. With its unique ability to rapidly turn scientific discoveries into novel approaches for early detection and treatment, JWCI at Providence Saint John’s Health Center provides immediate hope to cancer patients everywhere. For more information, please visit jwci.org, like facebook.com/JohnWayneCancerInstitute or follow twitter.com/johnwayneci.
About the John Wayne Cancer Institute Auxiliary
Established in 1982 by two breast cancer survivors, the JWCI Auxiliary is currently helmed by President Anita Swift, granddaughter of John Wayne. The Auxiliary has raised more than $18 million to fund a wide array of the Institute’s priorities including groundbreaking research, vital new laboratory equipment and the nationally renowned JWCI at Providence Saint John’s Health Center Surgical Oncology Fellowship Program, which trains the next generation of surgical oncologists. For more information, please visit jwci.org or call the Auxiliary Information line at (310) 829-8324.
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Contacts:Katy Sweet/Pam Giangregorio
Katy Sweet & Associates Public Relations
(310) 479-2333 / Pam@KatySweetPR.com
Providence Saint John’s Health Center Foundation
(310) 829-8168 / Tess.Csiszar@stjohns.org