Apr 12 2021

Life in the Time of Corona(virus) – Day 391

by at 7:15 am under Uncategorized

I bought a new bicycle last weekend. It will be delivered in mid-May (a pandemic phenomenon). Meanwhile, I am trying to do 30-60 minutes daily on my indoor bike, gradually ratcheting up the intensity and length of my training “rides.” The BellRinger ride so far has 43 riders and 13 pelotons, and I hope that many of you will join me as riders. This event can only succeed if we rise collectively to the challenge. Remember, each dollar raised goes to support Georgetown Lombardi’s cancer research mission.

However, I will always remember this past week because of the telephone call we received on Thursday with the sad news that Phyllis Rand had passed away that morning. Phyllis moved to Georgetown from the NCI with Marc Lippman more than 30 years ago and served as the Georgetown Lombardi Director’s executive assistant until she retired in late 2015. She was the true beating heart of this cancer center for more than 25 years.

Phyllis Rand

Phyllis Rand

She was all these things, rolled into one remarkable force of nature: smart, dedicated, loyal, fierce, wise, caring, unsentimental, quick to anger, quicker to forgive, organized (in her distinctive manner), demanding and helpful. She was part drill sergeant, part psychiatrist and full-time guidance counselor. Generations of clinicians, scientists and staff turned to Phyllis for all manner of advice. I was one of them. She taught me how to lead and how to listen. I miss her already.

As the sad news spread, I was bombarded by notes from her legion of friends and admirers — many of whom got to know her during her years as the administrator of the Breast Cancer Think Tank, organized by Marc and Kent Osborne. These world-class scientists and clinicians saw Phyllis for what she was: a peer, with a penetrating intellect and a passion for truth. She was the smartest person in every room. If she knew it, she never let us in on that secret.

I often wondered where, under other circumstances, her formidable intellect and deep insights might have led her. Fortunately for us, they led her here. She fully embraced her job, and in doing so, had a greater impact on our cancer center and the larger world than many with fancy degrees and job titles. Phyllis loved to dance, and was more of a rocker than a swing dancer. But in one very important way, she reminded me of Frank Sinatra. She did it her way. And, we are the better for it. May she rest in peace, and may her memory be a blessing.

Stay safe and be well.


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