For Prouty co-chairs, the mission hits home

Carin Reynolds and Gregory Tsongalis are this year's Prouty co-chairs.

This year’s Prouty co-chairs have this in common: feelings for the event that run very deep. For Dr. Gregory Tsongalis, the reasons are largely professional, and for Carin Reynolds, they’re personal. 

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Tsongalis is the director of the Laboratory for Clinical Genomics and Advanced Technology at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. He is also a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine.

“The connection to the Prouty was almost immediate when we moved here,” Tsongalis said. It was 2004; his kids were 6 and 8. 

“We had them on their little Fisher Price bicycles riding in their first Prouty,” he said. “It was a lot of fun. It was unbelievable to see the community participation, especially being as rural as we are.” Even now, he said, just seeing the crowds at The Prouty sends a shiver of appreciation down his spine.

Money raised through The Prouty supports the work in Tsongalis’s lab and the cancer patients it helps.

Dr. Tsongalis (left) in his lab.

“My lab’s not a research lab,” he said. “My lab’s a clinical lab. We depend very heavily on a lot of the new discoveries coming out of the research lab so that we can translate that and transition that into testing for our cancer patients. 

“Directly, we’ve received funds from The Prouty to work on pilot projects looking at different genes in patients, matching them to therapies,” he said. “Indirectly, every cancer center member that does research that gets supported by The Prouty has the potential to come up with a new discovery or a finding that makes its way into my lab and then gets offered to our patients.”

Reynolds is a lawyer and athlete who is best known in the community for coaching high school crew teams, first at Hanover and now at Lebanon. She first rode in The Prouty in 2006 and, since 2011 has organized Row the Prouty on the Connecticut River. She also leads a Prouty team involving the Upper Valley Rowing Foundation and the Lebanon crew team that has raised more than $650,000 since it was created in 2012.

Much of the passion behind her commitment can be explained by this: In December 2011, Reynolds’s daughter, Cate, then in high school, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Cate was treated at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, and today she remains cancer-free.

Cate Reynolds as a Prouty hero (on the poster!) and participant with Carin in 2016.

“It’s been seven years. It still can be hard to talk about,” Reynolds said. “... As terrible a thing as it was, it was such a wonderful experience in terms of the care she got there -- the doctors, the nurses, I mean everybody from top to bottom.”

In addition to supporting research, Prouty dollars go to patient and family services at the hospital -- and these, Reynolds said, made Cate’s experience much more bearable. “It wasn’t just a sterile experience of physical healing. It was how can we make this less stressful, more hopeful, not just about your treatment and cancer but what do you like to do.”

For Cate this meant art supplies. “She’s a compulsive sculptor of tiny things,” Reynolds said.

Tsongalis and Reynolds both described serving as co-chairs in the same way: It’s an honor.

“Our cancer center is probably one of the country’s finest gems,” Tsongalis said, “kind of nestled in a surrounding that you really don’t find very often. … We have first-rate clinicians, we have world-renowned scientists. I can’t think of a bigger honor than to kind of represent these people to the community.”

“If there’s anything about my story and my experience that will help this event,” said Reynolds, “I will do it. I feel eternally indebted.”

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