2023 O’Neal Iron Strong Awards
The O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB hosted its inaugural O’Neal Iron Strong Awards July 28, 2023, in the Barbara and Edward Partridge Atrium at Wallace Tumor Institute. The ceremony celebrated nine cancer survivors who benefitted from clinical trials and helped advance the knowledge on cancer care.
Honorees were greeted with a seated lunch followed by remarks from O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center Director Barry Sleckman, M.D., Ph.D. While highlighting the important role clinical trials play in advancing cancer care, Sleckman recognized both the awardees as well as the faculty and staff who aided in the success of the Cancer Center’s clinical trials program. He also extended an expression of gratitude toward the O’Neal family and shareholders for their naming gift in 2019. As he concluded his remarks, Sleckman reflected on the similarities in the mission of the cancer center and the work of O’Neal Industries, noting that “our patients are strong as iron.”
Craft O’Neal, chairman and CEO of O’Neal Industries, spoke about the phrase that became the theme of the event: “difficultas ne deterrem.” A Latin phrase meaning “difficulties do not deter us,” this concept was shared by Craft O’Neal’s father and grandfather throughout his life. He added that this phrase not only applied to the moving of a prized magnolia tree that has become a symbol of the O’Neal family, it also represents the determination of the cancer center’s clinician-scientists, who work each and every day to pursue life without cancer.
Following opening remarks, emcee Jeh Jeh Pruitt, WBRC reporter and O’Neal advisory board member, began the presentation of medals to the cancer survivors. Pruitt shared stories of each honoree’s cancer journey before inviting them and their physician to the front, where they were presented with a medal.
Michael Humphries, patient of Dr. Amitkumar Mehta
Trevor Moultrie, patient of Dr. Raymond Watts
Carolyn Graham, patient of Dr. Rebecca Arend
Albert Isaac, patient of Dr. Luciano Costa
Selena Avalos, patient of Dr. Julie Wolfson
Stephanie King, patient of Dr. Burt Nabors
Susan Stewart, patient of Dr. Warner Huh
Lenora Johnson, patient of Dr. Luciano Costa
Dana Hanshaw, patient of Dr. Pankit Vachhani
“It’s truly amazing when you stop to consider that a patient with a rare type of cancer who was once told she had just a few months to live is now doing well,” Sleckman noted. “We are grateful to be able to share the stories of these remarkable patients, who help us learn more in the fight against cancer. They are an inspiration to our investigators.”
The O’Neal Iron Strong Awards concluded with closing remarks from cancer survivor Tom Michaels—also a clinical trial participant—commending each honoree for their positivity throughout such a difficult journey.