NEW YORK CITY—Forgoing the traditional diamond or modern gold 75th anniversary gift, Fortune magazine announced last month that it would celebrate its three quarters of a century in publishing by partnering with the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF).
Gathering here at the Time-Life Building for breakfast on a cold, clear winter's day, guests convened to hear about the joint venture from Jack Haire, Executive Vice President of Time Inc.; Michael Milken, Chairman of the Prostate Cancer Foundation; Mandy Patinkin, Emmy- and Tony-award winning actor and singer; and Whoopi Goldberg, Academy-award winning actor and comedian.
The three men were all prostate cancer survivors, and after noting that she didn't have a prostate, Ms. Goldberg explained she has been a prostate cancer supporter since the time her friend Mike Milken was first diagnosed in 1993. She also served as host of the PCF's gala last year at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, an event that raised more than $5 million.
Mr. Haire said the partnership would help raise awareness of the disease that affects two million American men. Fortune provided the Foundation with a $75,000 contribution, as well as pledging $75 for each page of advertising sold in the business magazine during 2005. This money would be put into a fund used by the Prostate Cancer Foundation for prostate cancer public service messages.
In addition, Mr. Haire said that Fortune would match that fund with approximately $750,000 in advertising from other Fortune titles such as Money, Fortune Small Business, and Business 2.0.
“Fortune can think of no better way to celebrate its 75th anniversary with its readers than to partner with the Prostate Cancer Foundation to find a cure for prostate cancer,” Mr. Haire said.
“One of the most important things we do for our readers and the community we serve is covering the war on cancer and specifically the war on prostate cancer,” he continued, citing the magazine's March 2004 cover story, “Why We're Losing the War on Cancer (and How to Win It), and the November 2004 cover article about Mr. Milken, “Beating Cancer: The Man Who Changed Medicine,” as well as the May 1996 article by Intel Chairman Andy Grove, “Taking on Prostate Cancer.”
“By capturing the personal and heroic stories of men like Andy Grove and Mike Milken, Fortune has helped change the national conversation about prostate cancer, and Fortune is proud to have played that role in this urgent debate about how to conquer this deadly disease [cancer] that has now surpassed heart disease as the number one killer of Americans under the age of 85,” he said.
Citing Patrick Walsh, MD, & Andrew von Eschenbach, MD
To underscore Mr. Milken's contributions, Mr. Haire also selected quotes from the Milken piece from both Johns Hopkins' Patrick Walsh, MD—“Mike's done more for prostate cancer research than anyone in America”; and NCI Director Andrew von Eschenbach, MD—“Michael Milken changed the culture of [medical] research. He created a sense of urgency that focused on results and shortened the timeline. It took a business mindset to shake things up. What he's done is now the model.”
Mr. Milken then recounted the “history of fighting cancer over the last 75 years through Fortune covers,” by linking articles about such subjects as the Depression in 1938 with Congress' establishing a commission that would eventually become the National Cancer Institute, or the Surgeon General's first warning about smoking and cancer in 1939.
Noting that life expectancy in this country has just about doubled over the last century, he talked about the possibility of curing a disease, citing President Franklin Roosevelt's declaration of war on polio in 1938, and the subsequent declaration of war on cancer by President Richard Nixon in 1971.
Mr. Milken joked about being hired by Mr. Haire for the next year as a Fortune advertising salesman to help raise proceeds for the PCF and commented on the how appropriate it was that the cover story on losing the War on Cancer should be in a business magazine, since cancer, in the United States alone, is as large an industry as the newspaper, magazine, cable, television, and movie businesses combined.
“The work of Fortune in 2004 was a rallying cry for researchers in the United States and the world,” he said, referring to both the story about him and the one featuring him and Lance Armstrong on the cover that read “Beating Cancer—Why Leaders from Lance Armstrong to Rudy Guiliani Have Joined Mike Milken's Crusade—and How It's Changing Medicine.”
Mr. Milken concluded that there is a revolution going on today watching medicine move from reactive to projective to preventive, and the longtime goal is individualized preventive care for treatment not only for prostate cancer, but for all diseases.
Mandy Patinkin shared his personal story (see sidebar), and Whoopi Goldberg related how she would “berate men just to get the check-up, and would support friends who are the strongest men I know and were reduced to tears and fear about prostate cancer.
“I will do what I can to help get rid of this disease,” she said. “That's why I'm here. I'm not going to get prostate cancer.”
Fortune's year-long commitment to prostate cancer will also include a special advertising section in the Sept. 19, 2005 issue, in recognition of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, in which the magazine will be responsible for selling the section and the Prostate Cancer Foundation will be responsible for the content under the direction of the Fortune Custom Projects Department.
Fortune will also mention the Foundation and the partnership in all media and marketing materials relating to the 75th Anniversary, according to a PCF spokesperson.
Mr. Milken's intense interest in prostate cancer was sparked in 1993, when the then-46 year old former Wall Street financier was diagnosed with the disease shortly after his release from federal prison after serving a 22-month sentence for securities violations related to market manipulation of junk bonds.
In addition to his reputation as a legend on Wall Street, Mr. Milken also has a long history of philanthropy, including co-founding the Milken Family Foundation in 1982. In response to his own diagnosis, he founded CaP Cure in 1993, which was later renamed the Prostate Cancer Foundation. He has also been associated with the National Prostate Cancer Coalition and numerous other organizations and causes, including his latest medical initiative, FasterCures/The Center for Accelerating Medical Solutions, a Washington-based think tank dedicated to shortening the time it takes to make progress on the most deadly and debilitating diseases.
Is partnership with a cause a first for Fortune? Mr. Haire replied that the magazine had been involved with other causes in the past, but never to this extent.
And when asked if this particular partnership on behalf of prostate cancer had any connection with the demographics of the publication's readership, he hesitated briefly, before acknowledging the accuracy of the observation.
Mandy Patinkin's Greatest Gifts
Following Mandy Patinkin's presentation, I approached him and noted, “You really seemed sincere and passionate about this cause, or, you might just be the world's best actor.”
“I'm not,” he replied modestly, in stark contrast with Jeffrey Geiger, MD, the arrogant cardiothoracic surgeon he had played on Chicago Hope, for which he received an Emmy Award in 1995.
He noted that almost one year ago to the day we spoke, he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer at age 51. He told the audience at the Fortune/PCF event that learning he had cancer was the second greatest gift he'd received.
The first, he said, had occurred some 30 years earlier when his father died of pancreatic cancer at age 52.
The singer and Tony-award winning actor (for Evita) explained that all those years ago, the decision was for him and his family to lie to his father about his disease, saying it was hepatitis rather than pancreatic cancer.
“But my father was no idiot,” he said, adding that his dad had requested a large order of White Castle hamburgers at the time, an ironic opposite to Mr. Patinkin's current-day diet regimen of healthy vegetables.
“In his dying, my father gave me my greatest gift—not to hesitate to do what you want to do,” he said.
It also instilled in him a ruthless and painful sensitivity to the truth, making him unable to tolerate a lie. The reason he viewed his own diagnosis as a gift, he said, was because he felt “privileged and blessed with great medicine that knew how to find it [the cancer] fast, and gave me a freedom in life to sing, to act, to be with my family.
“I learned how precious life is and that we're only here for a few seconds, which we shouldn't waste. I also want to tell people to eat right, and pay attention to the wake-up calls.”
Mr. Patinkin and his wife, Kathryn Grody, an award-winning actress and writer, have two sons, 18 and 22 years old. When one of them was in second grade, Mr. Patinkin became friends with the father of another second grader. That father was Larry Norton, MD, and when Mr. Patinkin became ill, he turned to the noted breast cancer expert, who referred him to his Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center colleague, Peter Scardino, MD. In May 2004, Mr. Patinkin received a radical prostatectomy.
This February, he appeared healthy and fit, and was preparing for a CBS-TV pilot about the FBI's behavioral unit, as well his other new role as a prostate cancer advocate.
Coming: Another March in 2006?
In a break at the Fortune event, Mr. Milken and I fell into a discussion about the 1998 MARCH…Coming Together to Conquer Cancer, in Washington, which I had covered as a radio correspondent and written about retrospectively in OT, and which the Fortune cover story largely credited Mr. Milken with having made a reality.
“You know, we're planning another March in 2006,” he said. When asked if he'd be announcing it again on CNN's Larry King show as the first one had been, he smiled and hinted that we'll see.
Featured in OT's Feb. 10 “Advocacy Insight” column, breast cancer survivors Elyse Caplan (left) and Deb Mendelson finally meet at the Fifth Annual Conference for Young Women Affected by Breast Cancer, held February 19 in Philadelphia. Sharing similar stories about their respective experiences with breast cancer and careers in health care, the two women had corresponded and ed the same conferences in the past, but had never met and were unaware of their parallel backgrounds until OT discovered the link at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium last December. The two-day February conference, dedicated to the issues and concerns of young breast cancer survivors, was cosponsored by Living Beyond Breast Cancer and the Young Survival Coalition, and drew more than 800 attendees from 41 states, Canada, Guam, Argentina, and Thailand.
Eric Rosenthal founded the NCI-designated Cancer Centers Public Affairs Network, has worked with Vital Options International TeleSupport Cancer Network and The Group Room cancer radio show, has organized conferences about the media and medical/cancer communications issues, and is a member of the NCI Director's Consumer Liaison Group.