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Team Hope: Changing Lives, Taking the Challenge



July 13, 2012

Eight leading IBD doctors, running as "Team Hope," will be suiting up for this year's national Team Challenge event: the Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon. Many are members of CCFA's National Scientific Advisory Committee. And all of them started out as "relatively unfit people with no exercise regimen to speak of," according to Team Hope member Thomas Ullman, MD, a clinician and researcher at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

Last December, at CCFA's "Advances in IBD" Conference, CEO Richard Geswell pointed out that Team Challenge has raised more than $30 million in just five years. He called on members of the audience -- which included corporate supporters of CCFA and physician members -- to take up the challenge themselves.

Dr. Ullman is part of a tight-knit group of IBD investigators and clinicians who stay in touch year-round by e-mail and phone, discussing difficult cases, reviewing research proposals, and keeping up with news in the field. At the meeting, Dr. Ullman and a handful of others in the group realized they were feeling their age. So he decided to issue a challenge of his own to his friends and colleagues to sign on to Team Challenge. Those who weren't sidelined by bad knees, bad ankles, or other orthopedic problems took him up on it. In addition to Dr. Ullman, the group includes Shane Devlin, MD, of the University of Calgary; Dermot McGovern, MD, PhD and Gil Melmed, MD, of Cedars-Sinai; Scott Plevy, MD, of the University of North Carolina; Corey Siegel, MD, of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center; David T. Rubin, MD, of the University of Chicago; and Adam Cheifetz, MD, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School.

While Dr. Ullman doesn't want to be seen as the group's leader, he does admit to being the "cajoler in charge." What's kept him going, he adds, is the camaraderie within the group -- and his fear that if he doesn't keep up with training his colleagues "will mercilessly tease me." Most of Team Hope's members are now training with their local Team Challenge group, while a few who don't have a local group nearby are working with the national team. So far, the team has raised more than $25,000, and collectively shed more than 50 pounds! While Dr. Ullman is now nursing a pulled hamstring and is limited to training on a recumbent bike for a few weeks, he says he's firmly committed to finishing the race, "whether I hop, walk or crawl."

If you're interested in following in Team Hope's footsteps and giving Team Challenge a try, you can find out more at www.ccteamchallenge.org. In exchange for committing to and meeting your fundraising goal, you'll get personalized training, an expenses-paid weekend at a destination race, and much more. Participants usually join one of Team Challenge's 40 local teams. Most are for half-marathon training, but there are now three local cycling teams and five triathlon teams. Right now, Team Challenge is recruiting for Zappos.com Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon and Half Marathon -- start your training this August, and join the Team for an amazing night race on the Las Vegas strip!

Seventy-five cents of every dollar raised by Team Challenge participants goes to CCFA programs. In the past year, money raised helped to: provide $19 million in research funds; serve more than 715,000 patients and families nationwide with education and support; train more than 72,000 medical professionals on caring for IBD patients; and send more than 1,220 kids with IBD to Camp Oasis.

Training and competing is good for CCFA, and as Dr. Ullman has learned, it's good for Team Hope, too. "We're all firmly planted in middle age, or approaching it, and seeing our waistlines expand and our energy decrease," he explains. "We're seeing ourselves in decline, and this is a nice way of going about changing that trajectory and getting involved in a cause that we all deeply care about."