November 17, 2009

University honors Katie Couric at annual ball for fighting cancer

The University of Chicago Cancer Research Foundation honored Katie Couric for her involvement in fighting cancer at the 43rd annual Cancer Ball at the Four Seasons Hotel downtown Saturday.

The ball was organized by the Women’s Board of the University of Chicago Cancer Research Foundation.

Couric has been actively involved in spreading cancer awareness, funding cancer research, and opening treatment centers for cancer patients since the death of her husband, Jay Monahan, in 1998 at the age of 42. He died after being diagnosed with stage-four colon cancer, which Couric said is the second-deadliest cancer in the United States despite its 90 percent early-detection survival rate.

Couric spoke about how devastating cancer can be and about her work to help eradicate the disease. Despite 20 years as a journalist—she has hosted the Today Show and hosts CBS Evening News—her work with cancer “is by far the most meaningful work [I have done],” Couric said.

Couric founded both the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance and the Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health at the New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center after the death of her husband. The Monahan Center was created to bring together cancer experts from around the world who could provide “seamless, comprehensive, and compassionate care” for people with gastrointestinal cancer. Couric wanted future patients to be able to see various specialists at one site rather than needing to travel to multiple sites in order to get care, a frustrating ordeal that she and her husband went through while he was battling cancer.

Couric also helped start the cancer research charity Stand Up To Cancer, which she said raised $100 million during its first four months, in part through a September 2008 telethon broadcast shown on all three major networks.

Couric was also honored for her push for cancer screening awareness and early detection.