It was an afternoon to celebrate notable women, medical breakthroughs, and a bit of fashion, at Einstein's 59th annual Spirit of Achievement Luncheon, held on Tuesday, April 30, at the Plaza Hotel in New York. Hosted by the New York chapter of the Einstein National Women's Division, the event helps advance the College of Medicine's ongoing research efforts and honors individuals who are leaders in their fields — from medicine and the arts, to business and government.
Dean Allen M. Spiegel with 2013 Spirit of Achievement Honorees (from left) Anne Wojcicki, Liz Lange and Dr. Francine EinsteinThis year's honorees were Liz Lange, famed designer of chic maternity wear; Anne Wojcicki, co-founder of innovative biotechnology company 23andMe; and Dr. Francine Einstein, associate professor of obstetrics & gynecology and women's health at the College of Medicine. The luncheon benefited the Women's Division's initiative to support vital research studies in breast, ovarian, cervical and uterine cancers at Einstein's Albert Einstein Cancer Center. Women's Division members Alison Brettschneider, Janet Hershaft, Tara Mark Rosenblum and Andrea Stark served as luncheon co-chairs.
New York chapter co-presidents Mindy Feinberg and Mara Sandler welcomed the attendees and acknowledged several past honorees in the audience, including Einstein Overseer Rita Rosen, Honorary Overseer Emily Fisher Landau, and Einstein faculty members Drs. Susan Horwitz, Joseph Sparano and Mark Einstein (husband of Francine), before introducing Willie Geist, co-host of MSNBC's Morning Joe and a co-anchor of NBC-TV's Today Show, who returned to donate his time and talent as emcee the event for the fifth consecutive year.
2013 Spirit Luncheon co-chairs, from left, Andrea Stark, Janet Hershaft, Alison Brettschneider, Tara Mark RosenblumIn her opening remarks, Dr. Ruth Gottesman, chair of Einstein's Board of Overseers, announced "We have embarked upon a new chapter of growth and progress. Two weeks ago in this room, we celebrated the public announcement of The Campaign to Transform Einstein — a $500 million capital campaign — the largest fundraising effort in our history. The National Women's Division can be very proud that it has raised $6 million during the course of this campaign."
The issue of women's health was brought closer to home by the honorees. While Dr. Einstein initially talked about her work as a physician-scientist, conducting research and treating patients with high-risk pregnancies, she also shared her personal experience as a patient for whom screening identified an irregularity before it became invasive cancer. "Because of my experience, I have a better understanding of what my patients are going through," she said. "And I've seen the incredible good that comes out of our work — from our research and clinical efforts at Einstein and Montefiore, to the support that advocates like the Women's Division provide — and I realize how much we all need each other."
Mara Sandler (left) and Mindy Feinberg, co-presidents, New York Chapter, Einstein National Women's DivisionMs. Lange also spoke about a health scare. The designer, who started a now-famous maternity clothing line in 1997, was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2001. "I had two young children and was busy building my business," she said. "But through early detection and state-of-the-art treatment, I was cured. The doctors and scientists at Einstein are changing the lives of so many women by stacking the odds in their favor."
Ms. Wojcicki hoped that her company, 23AndMe, would revolutionize healthcare for everyone by enabling individuals to access and understand their own genetic information. "I'm inspired by Einstein because they were one of the first to establish a genetics research center," she said. "My goal with the company is to empower you to have this valuable information. If you know ahead of time what you're at risk for, isn't it better to have the opportunity to successfully prevent it, rather than just treating it?"
This year's luncheon included a fashion show featuring style expert Jill Martin, who is Mr. Geist's Today Show colleague and a previous Spirit honoree, as special commentator. Models wore gowns and dresses from New York's 25 PARK boutique, accessorized with jewelry by noted jewelry designer Jennifer Miller.
Since 1953, the National Women's Division has raised millions of dollars to support biomedical research and education programs at Einstein. The Spirit of Achievement Luncheon, the longest-running event of its kind, is the Women's Division's flagship annual fundraiser. Dr. Francine Einstein summed up the influence of the Spirit luncheon and other Women's Division fundraising efforts on behalf of the College of Medicine when she noted: "Yes, we are ladies who lunch. But do not underestimate the power that resides with ladies who lunch, when we come together with a mission."
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Posted on: Friday, June 14, 2013