Alberta Cancer Foundation

University of Calgary Med Students Get a Close Shave at Annual Fundraiser

U of C students shaving their heads for cancer.

Daniel Bailey is one of the lucky ones. Unlike many Albertans, the 22-year-old, first-year medical student at the University of Calgary (U of C) hasn’t been impacted by cancer personally. But as part of his studies, Bailey has been shadowing doctors at the Foothills Medical Centre and says the number of patients being treated for cancer is shocking.

“It affects a lot of lives there,” says Bailey, who was particularly affected by his experience following a hematologist (a doctor specializing in diseases of the blood, including cancers like leukemia and lymphoma) on her rounds. “The number of patients she saw every day with cancer — and the impact of it — just blew me away,” he says. One of these patients was a 19-year-old woman with a
particularly aggressive form of lymphoma. Despite her good prognosis, the visit left him feeling unsettled: “It hit me hard because my sister is 19.”

When Bailey was given the opportunity to organize Medshave, an annual fundraiser planned by the university’s first-year medical students, he eagerly volunteered. The head-shaving event has been organized by first-year U of C med students for the last 15 years or so in support of organizations involved in cancer care and research.

This year, the Alberta Cancer Foundation was chosen as the recipient.

“When you think about it, there’s a two-way benefit for the medical community fundraising for a cancer foundation,” says Bailey. “A lot of us have been impacted by the disease personally, but when we fundraise for organizations like the [Foundation] we are ensuring we’ll have the best treatments and programs for our patients when we go into practice.”

This year’s event was held on Valentine’s Day, in the atrium of the Health Research Innovation Centre at the U of C’s Foothills campus. A silent auction helped raise funds on the day of the head shave, but most of the $35,000 raised came from 11 individuals — mostly Bailey’s classmates — who committed themselves to shaving their hair and soliciting donations from family and friends. One volunteer, med student Helen Tam-Tham, blessed with a luxurious mane of black hair, managed to raise a whopping $10,000.

On top of donating his time to lead the planning of the event, Bailey raised $2,000 in donations for shaving his own head, and outside of feeling a little chilly afterwards, he says the experience was painless and fun.

“[Afterwards] I went out for Valentine’s Day dinner and my date had to deal with my baldness,” he says.