DU Alumni

Alum to receive posthumous Patient of Courage award at event for melanoma research

Gregg Stracks, picture with wife Sara Selig, will receive a posthumous Patient of Courage award May 22 at the Cable Center. Photo courtesy of Sara Selig.

Gregg Stracks (PsyD ’04) of Boston died Jan. 10, after a five-year battle with ocular melanoma (OM). He was 40 years old. Stracks was diagnosed with OM in 2006 at age 34. He underwent treatment, but the cancer metastasized to his liver, and he was told he had six months to live. Five years later, after a courageous fight, Stracks succumbed to the disease, but not without first leaving a legacy of helping other OM patients.

After his diagnosis, Stracks and his wife, Sara Selig, researched the disease and treatment options. Stracks participated in clinical trials and consulted with doctors from all over the world. Stracks and Selig also worked diligently to help organize the OM scientific and patient communities, joining forces in October 2011 with the Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF) to co-found the Community United for Research and Education of Ocular Melanoma (CURE OM). CURE OM operates under the umbrella of MRF to provide support and education to the OM community and to accelerate the development of effective treatments.

Selig — who is a physician — says OM is the most common type of eye tumor in adults and the second most common type of melanoma, and about half of all OM patients develop metastatic disease, for which there currently are no FDA-approved treatments.

Stracks was diagnosed shortly after returning to the U.S. from Kenya and Mozambique, where he worked with the Clinton Foundation and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation to help establish psychosocial programming for children and families affected by HIV and AIDS. Stracks’ professional work later focused on management and organizational psychology in Boston. He worked full time and founded the OPUS Leadership Group — an organizational, leadership and management development firm with offices in Denver and Boston — while undergoing treatment.

After Stracks’ death, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston — where Stracks spearheaded groundbreaking work on leadership and teamwork in medical training — established the Gregg Stracks Program for Leadership and Teamwork in Medicine.

MRF, in conjunction with CURE OM, will hold a fundraising gala May 22 at the Cable Center, where Stracks will be honored with a posthumous Patient of Courage award. (Register here.)

“My heart aches for Gregg, and I will never be the same, but I know the fight must go on to find a cure for ocular melanoma so that others will not have to endure the same challenges that Gregg and I have had to face,” says Selig, who will accept the award on Stracks’ behalf.

To learn more about CURE OM, visit www.cureom.org or visit Stracks’ memorial website at www.welovegregg.blogspot.com.

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