Patrick Muraca, CEO of Nuclea Biotechnologies, presents Dr. Massimo Loda with a plaque from the Jimmy Fund on Loda's being named the first Paul M. Dowd Chair of Molecular Oncologic Pathology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Decades of effort on behalf of children with cancer have intersected with cutting-edge medicine with the creation of the Paul M. Dowd Chair of Molecular Oncologic Pathology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Named for a founder and longtime activist with the Jimmy Fund Council of The Berkshires
, the chair is designed to "strengthen the connections" between the Jimmy Fund, Dana-Farber, Boston and Pittsfield, said Nuclea President and CEO Pat Muraca.
"The support this community gives has been overwhelming," said Patrick Muraca, a member of the local council's Executive Board and strong financial supporter of the Jimmy Fund.
The establishment of the chair by Nuclea Biotechnologies of Pittsfield was announced on Sunday at a celebration at the Berkshire Museum attended local officials and representatives from the Jimmy Fund and Nuclea. Nuclea specializes in data collation and diagnostic testing, including research into molecular oncology therapeutics and diagnostics.
Muraca introduced the first recipient of the chair, Dr. Massimo Loda, director of the Center for Molecular Oncologic Pathology
at Dana-Farber, as a "doctor's doctor" because of the pathologist's critical role in determining types of cancer for oncologists to treat.
"The next step for pathology was molecular pathology — to further our understanding of the disease by sophisticated molecular means, but also very expensive molecular means," said Loda. However, "the funding has not been as important or as forthcoming as it was a few years ago so Pat's intervention was instrumental in setting up this center for molecular oncology pathology."
Mayor Daniel Bianchi said looking for a cure to cancer "is just about the most important role we can do" and thanked Muraca for his leadership and ingenuity.
"We're very appreciative of your generosity in endowing this chair and your big-heartedness in naming it after Paul Dowd."
An ailing Dowd himself was unable to attend; he's currently with his daughter in North Carolina. But the former city councilor's colleagues in city government and from the Jimmy Fund turned out for the event, including former Mayors James Ruberto and Gerald Doyle and former and current council Presidents Gerry Lee and Kevin Sherman.
"He has a heart as big as the Grand Canyon," said James Mazzer, longtime friend and executive vice president of the Berkshire County Jimmy Fund. Suzanne Fountain, assistant vice president and director of the Jimmy Fund, also spoke.
Suzanne Fountain of the Jimmy Fund presents Muraca with a framed 'Thank You' picture from the children aided by the fund at Dana-Farber.
Dowd arrived in Pittsfield as a minor league player with the Red Sox in the mid-'60s and fell in love and married a city girl. He went to work for Western Massachusetts Electric Co., coached Little League, spent four terms on the City Council and was instrumental in organizing the local Jimmy Fund.
Mazzer said the Berkshires council is one of the oldest in New England and well represented in Boston. Dowd may be miles away but he remains active by phone, he said.
"For a guy who wasn't born in Pittsfield, and who wasn't from the Berkshires originally, I can't think of anyone else that Berkshire County could be more proud of," said Mazzer, who later said Dowd, who beat cancer years ago, was overwhelmed on learning the chair was being named in his honor.
The setting amongst the annual Festival of Trees displays in the Crane Room was merry but the gathering took a moment "to reflect a measure of hope and healing to our neighbors in Newtown, Conn.," said emcee Peter Larkin.
Singer/songwriter Randy Cormier sang an original composition in memory of the shooting victims. State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing noted that Dec. 14 was the 20th anniversary of the shootings at Simon's Rock College of Bard in Great Barrington that killed two and injured four.
"We know intimately in this community the impact that a shooting — although much smaller in this case — can have on a community," said Downing. "And I know all our thoughts and prayers are with those families through those horrible times."
Those tragedies were senseless, and so is cancer, said Downing, leaving people feeling helpless. The representatives from the various local and medical entities gathered in the room were a reminder that working together can solve problems, and further the search for a cancer cure.
Loda said that was the mission: finding a cure.
"I dedicate this chair to the patients because we are there with a mission," said the doctor. "And the mission is to cure cancer and get rid of this disease and to help patients who do have cancer with their suffering."