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Riflery, cancer and leadership

Last weekend, friends of the WVU Cancer Institute hosted a gala celebration to support the Institute’s Comfort Fund. The Fund provides may kinds of support for patients and families that are challenged with the expense of treatment or long stays away from their homes because of the cancer care of a loved one.

The gala was at The Greenbrier, in the mountains near Lewisburg, West Virginia. We had a great turnout of committed community members who have the mindset of abundance for our state and Cancer Institute.

We raised a significant amount of money for the Comfort Fund, but also captured a grand opportunity to improve care and reduce cancer in West Virginia.

The group got a preview of the new Bonnie’s Bus that will augment access to mammography in rural West Virginia. We had a lively discussion of survivorship and prevention programs. There was a wealth of information exchanged and hope generated for a brighter future.

For many attendees, it was their first chance to meet Dr. Richard Goldberg, the new director of the  Cancer Institute.

He did a great job.

I had the opportunity to introduce Rich to the Mountaineer faithful, and quiz him and Laura Gibson, our deputy director, in front of the group.  

We covered a variety of topics – pig out food (Laura goes for pizza); streaming video (Rich is a fan of Homeland); embarrassing moment (Rich admitted to washing his wife’s wool sweater in hot water and shrinking it badly and Laura told us about falling while walking upstairs and having her dress end up around her head.)

Both Rich and Laura shined as great people who are comfortable with themselves and energized and committed to a better West Virginia.

Their greatest hope for the state is to improve the depth and breadth of care, improve the alignment of research and clinical care, as well as improve the health of the state. 

In addition to the impact of Rich and Laura’s leadership, we also got to hear from an amazing young woman, WVU student-athlete Ginny Thrasher.

Ginny is a leader. Personally, academically and on our rifle team.

She also won the first gold medal at last year’s Summer Olympics in Rio.

Tony Caridi walked her through some memories.


She told the story of her Olympic experience and how she controlled her thoughts and gained a mindset of calm and focus.

Her big moment was recognizing that she needed a bull’s-eye (a ten) on a single shot to win the first gold.

As thoughts of pressure on this all-or-none shot flew through her mind, she stopped herself with a deep breath.

She talked about the approach taken by the team – cake and frosting.

Before the frosting is relevant (that is the medals, fame, fortune, etc.), you need to concentrate on the ingredients you need for the cake (the stuff you control to do your best, be in flow, stay in the moment).

Focusing on doing your best in the moment no matter what the outcome is critical. She talked about “dissociating from the outcome.”

By taking a deep breath, she slowed her heart rate and then just concentrated on making her best shot.

She pulled the trigger and got the 10 to win the gold medal.

She then recounted her experience with the “victory tour” that lasted the next 12 hours and continued back to her first day of school at WVU, where an ESPN film crew followed her around.

Her challenge?

On the flight home from Brazil, she developed food poisoning and went through the next 18 hours without food, despite the newfound fame and film crew.

I am sure she handled it with the same grace, presence and perspective that I saw at the Cancer Institute gala.

We are very proud to have such great leaders and people represent our university in the many high profile venues that WVU has presence.

For all of us should focus on our purpose and doing our best job every day, without worrying so much about outcomes.

All the good stuff follows if we do the first part well.