Intrigued, I stopped at the corner of 12th Street as waves of women in pink jackets, lace tutus, and billowing skirts came down Market Street under their umbrellas. Despite the pelting rain, the women seemed in high spirits, walking jauntily as they engaged in happy and animated conversation. I knew that this had to be a fundraiser of some kind and went up to one of the women to ask about the cause. The woman was middle-aged and was wearing a jacket slick with water. On the jacket were tens of tags with the names of women who were no doubt victims of disease.
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The woman explained to me that this walk was to raise money for breast cancer research. The original plan called for three days of twenty miles each but, with the cold blast of the Nor’Easter, the organizers shortened it to one in the interest of safety. The goal for each woman was to raise $2,000. I figured that, with 2,500 walkers, the total gain would be about $5 million. While a lofty sum, $5 million is a drop in the research bucket of the NIH or that of any pharmaceutical company.
While I initially felt sad for these women as they trekked through downtown into a wall of driving rain, I soon became happy as I realized that they were making as strong a statement for the value of research as any I heard at the ACR meeting. These women had the right priorities. They knew what research can do and were prepared to give their all on a rain-drenched Sunday morning to make their contribution.
Whatever changes occur in the healthcare system, I hope that they meet the hopes and aspirations of those women, and no doubt millions of Americans, who, like the founders of the ACR, want better healthcare and are willing to sacrifice to make it happen.
Dr. Pisetsky is physician editor of The Rheumatologist and professor of medicine and immunology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.