GI Research Foundation celebrates 60 years with a virtual ball May 1

  • From left, Northfield's Sy Taxman and NBC-Chicago's Leeann Trotter at the 2019 GIRF Ball. The 2021 GIRF Ball was held virtually May 1, raising more than $1 million to support the University of Chicago Medicine Digestive Diseases Center.

    From left, Northfield's Sy Taxman and NBC-Chicago's Leeann Trotter at the 2019 GIRF Ball. The 2021 GIRF Ball was held virtually May 1, raising more than $1 million to support the University of Chicago Medicine Digestive Diseases Center. Courtesy of Gastro-Intestinal Research Foundation

 
 
Updated 5/10/2021 11:00 AM

Due to the global pandemic, the Gastro-Intestinal Research Foundation (GIRF) transformed its annual ball into a virtual fundraiser Saturday, May 1, raising more than $1 million to support physicians-scientists at the University of Chicago Medicine Digestive Diseases Center.

This year's event offered GIRF supporters an unforgettable experience, featuring Emmy Award-winning mentalist Oz Pearlman, music by Maggie Speaks and a special presentation by GIRF scientist advisers Dr. David T. Rubin, Dr. Eugene B. Chang and Michael R. Charlton.

 

Attendees also met UChicago Medicine patient Heidi Henderson, who shared her experience living with ulcerative colitis; researcher Dr. Sajan Nagpal, who is investigating early detection of pancreatic cancer; and Dr. A. Murat Meren, who utilizes computer science to better understand the microbiome.

"Once again, we won't let COVID-19 interfere with GIRF's mission, merging outstanding patient care with innovation. GIRF, along with the doctors and staff at the Digestive Diseases Center, are committed to improving the quality of life for patients all over the world suffering from GI diseases," said Katie Chudnovsky, board president of GIRF.

"Thanks to the incredible support of our donors, sponsors, board members and UChicago Medicine faculty and staff, we were able to come together as a community to raise funds to help treat, cure and prevent digestive diseases."

A highlight of the evening, two longtime GIRF supporters and champions, Beatrice G. Crain of the Crain-Maling Foundation and Nancy and Sy Taxman of the Taxman Family Foundation, were honored with inaugural awards: Joseph B. Kirsner Award and Partners in Science Award.

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"After I met Joe Kirsner, he became one of the most loyal, dearest friends I have ever known," said Bee Crain. "I still support the foundation created in Dr. Kirsner's name, as he was always loyal to me, and I would like to return that loyalty in my lifetime."

"I am humbled and honored to accept the first Partners in Science Award," said Sy Taxman. "We have always idolized superheroes, and we have finally identified the real superheroes, the doctors, nurses and staff at the GI section of UChicago Medicine. I refer to Dr. Rubin and his team as Rubin's Rangers, helping to put an end to many of these diseases."

For more information about GIRF and the 2021 ball, visit giresearchfoundation.org.

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