Wednesday, April 2, 2014

#PCTUS: Why Everyone Can Relate When Joe Torre Talks Cancer Survival

This post was written by Mike Madarasz of the Institute for International Research. You can follow him on Twitter at @MikeMadarasz.

From a high level, it may not seem like Baseball Hall of Famer Joe Torre has the ability to connect with a room full of pharmaceutical professionals.  After his keynote to wrap up yesterday at Partnerships in Clinical Trials, it turns out he likely has the ability to connect with a group much more diverse than just pharmaceutical professionals.  The crowd hung on every one of his words for duration of his 53 minute chat with Dr. Amrit Ray.  At the conclusion, it became clear that Mr. Torre may in fact be the perfect to address a room full of people about cancer survival- pharmaceutical professional or not.

Torre and interviewer Amrit Ray , M.D.
of Janssen Pharmceutical Company
Joe can easily relate to the average person
He carries himself like an "average Joe" (no pun intended).  Born in Brooklyn, he conveys a humble demeanor that most people can appreciate.  It's not only the manner in which he speaks, but his character profile as well.  He's famous for having a boss (George Steinbrenner) that was constantly "cracking the whip".  He has an 18 year-old daughter whom he cites as one of the "different worries" he has these days.  He can relate to people on many different levels and that makes him that much more human in addressing something that sometimes transcends that.

He keeps everything in perspective
Baseball took a complete back seat in most of what he spoke about.  Something that resonated with me was the sentiment that since overcoming cancer, "age is just number".  He talked about how when before discovering cancer, turning 60 was the only number that was going to "get his attention".  Now, he speaks about appreciating his days on this earth regardless of age.  This is certainly an admirable attitude for anyone (with or without cancer) and one that a lot of people can associate with. 

For a moment in time, Joe Torre was susceptible 
Cancer is intimidating and overcoming the disease is a monumental achievement.  In talking about his fight, Joe openly admits how scared he was of his diagnosis and how he handled it.  “Information takes a lot of the freight away from cancer" he says.  "Not that it isn’t serious, not that it’s not life-threatening...You want to stay alive and be there for your daughter.”  At this point, Joe was not a baseball Hall of Famer or a Yankee legend.  He was brought to his knees by a powerful illness.  When cancer inevitably does the same to millions more, people can appreciate someone else who can relate.

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