The story behind the Run for the Rose

Posted on Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Dr. Marnie Rose

Dr. Marnie Rose

In 2002, Dr. Marnie Rose, stunned viewers of the nationally televised reality series “Houston Medical” by pulling off her wig to reveal that she was both a doctor and a patient. The 27-year-old Medical School pediatric resident at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital had been diagnosed with brain cancer.

Rose had agreed to be on the show because she thought it would help others and also wanted to draw attention to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, which she felt was overshadowed by other hospitals in the Texas Medical Center. The next five episodes would chronicle her life as a first- and second-year resident who was determined to keep working despite her illness. Sadly, Rose died Aug. 23, 2002, from complications of her cancer, just five weeks after the show’s final episode aired.

In March during her first year in residency, Rose started having headaches and some discomfort in her foot, which were followed soon after by a focal seizure during the night.

“When Marnie was diagnosed with a brain tumor, it was so horrifying to learn that brain cancer was under-recognized, the research was underfunded, and the prognosis had not changed in 50 years,” said her mother, Lanie Rose. “Brain cancer was typically a disease of men in their 40s to 70s. Marnie was a young female, a nonsmoker, who worked out and led a healthy lifestyle. She wanted people to know that anyone could get a brain tumor.

“Dr. Sharon Crandell, who headed the pediatric residency program, treated Marnie so kindly and compassionately and made accommodations for her to continue with her residency as long as possible, which meant so much to Marnie,” she added.

In memory of their daughter, the Roses created the Dr. Marnie Rose Foundation and established the Run for the Rose, a fund-raising run/walk for brain cancer research and for initiatives at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital.

“We had no idea what we were doing,” Lanie Rose said. “I was concerned that no one would show up. What if the first race just had our four family members?” But people—including brain cancer patients who had been inspired by Dr. Rose—did show, and the Dr. Marine Rose Foundation was able to net $90,000 the first year. Now going into its 10th year, the event has raised $784,000 for Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital.

“We never would have dreamed people would continue to contribute year after year,” Lanie said. “The proceeds directly benefit Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. I encourage friends and family members of patients who want to do something special for the hospital’s doctors and nurses to donate or participate in the event.”

The idea that was born out of love for a daughter lost to an insidious disease has now taken on a life of its own. The Dr. Marnie Rose Foundation has helped create and develop the Pediatric Palliative Care program—one of the first in the nation—with Marnie’s Garden Room, a special room painted like a rose garden where parents and siblings can spend time with pediatric patients nearing end-of-life, as well as helped to outfit the first pediatric Life Flight helicopter. In addition, funds from the Rose Foundation are pioneering amazing new research to treat pediatric brain tumors in an exciting collaboration among The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Medical School, Texas A&M, and MD Anderson Cancer Center.

“Our foundation’s money is going to the dogs—literally,” said Rose’s father, Jerry, referring to the canine neuro-oncology research by pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Fletcher, which they have funded since 2008. Fletcher started the research collaboration after his two boxers died from brain tumors and is working to create novel therapies in treating tumors that can be used on both dogs and children.

In 2011, the Rose Foundation also began underwriting neuro-oncology research conducted by Dr. Min Li, director of the Medical School’s Cancer Research Program.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Run for the Rose, and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and Mischer Neuroscience Institute are proud sponsors of the event, which takes place Sunday, March 25 at Reliant Park.

“A lot of progress has been made in 10 years,” said Lanie Rose. “Many of those who run or walk in the race are patients with brain tumors. In the first years of the event, very few patients survived from one year to the next. In 2011, almost 30 brain cancer survivors returned and took part in the race.”

In 2010, Dr. Rose’s Medical School class celebrated its 10th-year reunion. In tribute, her classmates arranged for their reunion to take place the weekend of the run, featuring it as a main attraction.

“We used to host the end-of-year party for her medical school and residency class at our ranch,” said Jerry Rose. “It meant a lot to see all those familiar faces. When Marnie was in school, we were like surrogate parents to many of them. Someone was always over at our house.”

Rose leaves many friends behind. Among her colleagues who are helping to continue the work she started through their involvement in the Run for the Rose are Polina Strug, director of Patient Experience, who counted Rose as a maid of honor, and Rose’s former boss Crandell. Strug, along with her husband, is in charge of the water stations at every race. Crandell pays for her residents to attend the Run and baby-sits their children while they participate.

“I could talk for hours about my precious Marnie. We miss her every second of every day,” said her mother. “While we lost our precious daughter to brain cancer, I look at all the miracles that have resulted because of her legacy and know Marnie would be proud.”

“Our daughter always wanted to be a pediatrician and go into private practice,” said her father. “When she was in medical school, I bought her a marble statue to put in her first office. She never lived to see that day, so I’ve entrusted it to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital—the place where she had so many friends and worked until the very end, when cancer took her young life.

“Marnie loved this hospital,” he continued. “This is the place where our hearts reside.”

To learn more about Dr. Marnie Rose and how you can participate in this year’s Run for the Rose, visit the website.

—Kimberly McGaw, Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center

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