Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Dr. Jim Olson and Project Violet

When Katie was in the hospital, she had a number of "attending physicians." Each of these doctors rotated for about three weeks "on service," and then three weeks off. They might have expertise in different cancers, such as neuroblastoma, leukemia or brain tumors, but they take care of a varied group of patients on the ward while they are "attending." After three weeks on, they have a few weeks away from the ward for research, teaching, service in other venues, etc.

One of Katie's attending doctors was Jim Olson, a brain tumor specialist. I knew about Jim before Katie got sick because he had taken care of Hayden Strum, the son of my friend Kathleen. Kathleen loved Jim and his way of being with patients and families, and Jim had loved Hayden. He found great inspiration for his research in Hayden's life - and in his death. In the strange new environment of the hospital, I looked forward to meeting the friend of a friend.

Jim took excellent, compassionate care of Katie (and later, of our friends' daughter, Hannah Hunt). He is gentle, thoughtful, calm and kind...and brilliant.

Since Katie's passing, Jim has invented of Tumor Paint. This new substance, made from scorpion venom, enables doctors to find, identify and mark cancer in the body so that it is much easier to remove in surgery - without damaging healthy tissue. Tumor paint makes cancer cells light up, so that surgeons can differentiate it from healthy cells. This is important in surgery in general, and vitally so in brain surgery; any healthy brain cells taken out - and any cancer cells left in the body - can lead to devastating effects. This paint will make surgery more accurate and less damaging.

I received a letter from Dr. Olson, asking me to share his latest news with you via the TEDx talk below. His letter read, in part:
"To raise awareness about the importance of discovering and developing drugs for cancer patients, our goal is to have 20,000 people view the TEDx talk this month - I hope you will help us achieve this important goal.  The Washington Research Foundation has generously offered to donate $10 to support our work for each time the talk is viewed, up to $50,000."
PLEASE take the time to watch this video, and allow me to introduce you to Dr. Jim Olson, who has one of the best bedside manners we encountered in pediatric oncology - in addition to being one smart dude. You will feel his passion for his work, and the reasons why he keeps doing it.

Want to know more? Please go to to learn how you can get involved!


Busy Bee Suz said...

Thank heavens for Dr's like him....making strides in the medical world; he is making a difference.

Anonymous said...

Simply amazing. He is a hero and an inspiration, as are Violet, Kyle and all the families who have played a role in getting this important work started and funded.

Karen B.