Haute Spot

Making A Difference With Dr. Samuel Waxman
By Dawn Watson - June 3, 2019

 It was very early on in Samuel Waxman’s career that his work took an unexpected turn. The consequences of which would change and shape his life, and those of countless others, in indelible ways. 

The young doctor, then in his early 30s, had been treating a young man for Hodgkin’s disease. Due to Dr. Waxman’s research, the results were quite successful, which was fairly rare at the time. The patient and his family were so grateful for the practical miracle that he had performed that they took it upon themselves to get Dr. Waxman the funding that he needed to secure in order to help others with the disease. 

Barry Finn, the uncle of the patient, took Dr. Waxman to meet his father-in-law, Irving Alpert, who owned a successful textile business. 

“I remember the day I walked into their showroom in the garment district. Irving was like some Damon Runyon character, with a cigar in his mouth and sitting at the head of a big table, surrounded by five other men,” recalls Dr. Waxman. “He said, ‘I hear you do good work. I want to help.’” 

Alpert then turned to one of the men in the room. “Write Dr. Waxman a check for $25,000,” he said. Then he turned to address the young doctor. “We’ll name the Foundation after you … by the way, what’s your first name?” 

“The whole meeting took five minutes,” Dr. Waxman laughed. “And that’s how the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation got started.” 

To date, the foundation has brought in more than a hundred million in necessary funding in the battle against the disease. Additionally, it has set up important models in the areas of funding research and peer review, focusing on a collaborative “institute without walls” approach. And thanks in no small part to a network of now nearly 60 SWCRF researchers across the world, patient survival rates for certain types of cancers have leapt from a dismal 25 percent to greater than 90 percent. 

“The good news is that mortality rates from almost all types of cancers have diminished in the past several years,” says Dr. Waxman, adding that the bad news is the number of patients is rising. “People are living longer, worldwide, which is a good thing. But in many ways, cancer is a disease of aging. And so now a very significant portion of our mission is to dig deeper into how to understand and prevent the risks of cancer as we age.” 

Of course, there are few better ways to raise funds and awareness than by putting on a benefit, which is something that Dr. Waxman has been doing for decades. 

The first few years, his wife, Marion, found friends who were willing to lend their Hamptons homes for the night. Since, the early days “cultivation parties” have grown from a informal gatherings into spectacular annual events that have brought massive visibility and millions of dollars to the foundation. 

Also thought to be one of the first major fundraisers to shine a light on chef talent, the Waxman Foundation has featured big-name chefs such as Jean Georges, David Burke, Todd English, Gabriel Kreuther, and more. This year’s Hamptons Happening, the 15th annual, will be “Tour de Cuisine” on July 13 at the home of Kenneth and Maria Fishel in Bridgehampton. Honorees will include restaurateur and cookbook author Lidia Bastianich; fashion designer Nicole Miller; Baker House 1650 owner Antonella Bertello; and Southampton Social Club, Union Cantina and Burger Bar owner Ian Duke. The entertainment will be “The Billie Joel Tribute Show” with Pat Farrell and the Cold Spring Harbor Band. 

“I think it’s going to be the biggest one yet,” Dr. Waxman says, adding that he’s excited for it, but even more excited from the possibilities that the night will bring to the fore for cancer research. 

“The greatest position in the world is being a physician, having that contact with another human being and being able to help them is better than anything else,” he says. “And of course, the money that the foundation brings in is very important, but for me, it’s not about getting repaid in dollars, it’s about getting paid and paying others in human caring.” 

For more information on the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation and the Hamptons Happening, visit the website. 

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