For Shirley Ira, participating as a Race for the Cure team captain is both personal and professional: an experience that blends her many years coordinating care for oncology patients at OHSU Casey Eye Institute (CEI) with some personal losses.
In 1991 the Susan G. Komen Foundation was about to launch its first Race for the Cure event in the Portland area and Ira had volunteered to be a team captain, representing CEI: at the time, she was the only clinic coordinator at CEI with oncology experience.
“You wouldn’t think an eye clinic would see patients with breast cancer.” Ira explained that sometimes breast cancer patients develop metastatic lesions in their eyes.
Over the years she has watched Portland’s Race for the Cure grow to what it is now: one of the largest in the country. Ira thinks the level of participation in the Northwest says a lot about the people here and their willingness to support a good cause that help others in their community. One of her favorite aspects of being a team captain is the opportunity it gives her to rally others to join the cause.
But the connection for Ira hasn’t been just professional. “I did lose a very good friend at one time.” In recent years several coworkers she’s been very close to at CEI have also been diagnosed with breast cancer. And most recently, one of CEI’s international fellows – a highly trained ophthalmologist who was here for two years for special training – died after returning home to Germany.
Ira shared a photo with us from last year’s race containing a list of names and a short message: “One of the reasons I participate! All the survivor names are coworkers at CEI.”
This year, she’ll walk in celebration of them, in memory of her friend and colleague, and in honor of her patients – some of whom will join her at the race on Sunday.
Shirley Ira is a clinic coordinator at OHSU Casey Eye Institute (CEI) where she coordinates care for adult and pediatric oncology patients with malignant tumors in their eyes. For over 17 years she coordinated patient enrollment and participation in an ocular oncology trial at CEI through the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
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