(August 10, 2019) — On Wednesday, August 7, 2019, Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center welcomed Katie Couric, an award-winning journalist and the co-founder of cancer advocacy nonprofit Stand Up To Cancer, for the inaugural Edward M. Kovach Cura Personalis Endowed Lecture.
Couric’s lecture, “The Healing Power of Communication,” was moderated by Georgetown Lombardi medical oncologist John Marshall, MD, and took the form of a conversation. The lecture focused on holistic caregiving that celebrates the principle of cura personalis, or “care for the whole person,” personified by the outstanding medical professionals who made Edward Kovach’s experience as a patient such a positive one.
Edward Kovach attended Georgetown for both his undergraduate and law degrees.
In 2014, Kovach was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and placed his trust and confidence in Georgetown, under the medical care of Marshall, a specialist in gastrointestinal cancers who directs the Ruesch Center for the Cure of GI Cancers at Georgetown Lombardi.
Kovach lived with this illness for another 3 1/2 years, a remarkable feat for patients with stage IV pancreatic cancer. Kovach’s wife, Kathleen, their five children and their families have decided to show Kovach's gratitude and love for Georgetown by memorializing him with an endowed lecture, an effort led by his daughter Alexandra.
Watch the Inaugural Edward M. Kovach Cura Personalis Lecture featuring special guest Katie Couric on Facebook.
Alexandra Kovach describes the life of her father, Edward Kovach, and the origins of the inaugural Edward M. Kovach Cura Personalis Endowed Lecture. ”We wanted to create a legacy for our Dad at Georgetown, the University that meant so much to him. Over time, we came up with the idea of this lecture series which will always be focused on the importance of communications in the medical care of patients.”
Alexandra (left) and Kathleen Kovach present the Inaugural Edward M. Kovach Cura Personalis “wooden spoon” to John Marshall, MD (right), joined by Louis Weiner, MD, director of Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. One of Ed Kovach’s lifelong hobbies was woodworking, and in particular carving wooden spoons — “a homage to the nourishment of the body and the soul,” Alexandra explains.
Former NBC4 news anchor Joe Krebbs describes his cancer experience before introducing his longtime friend and colleague Katie Couric. “When I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in July of 2017, I was stunned, terrified and lost. Dr. Marshall’s words were a lifesaver: ‘Don’t forget to live. Do what you love.’”
Over 350 attendees braved the D.C. rain to attend in person while dozens more watched the live broadcast online.
Couric talks about “The Couric Effect” and her late husband, Jay Monahan, who died of colorectal cancer. The Couric Effect name reflects the uptick in colon cancer screening after Couric allowed NBC’s TODAY viewers to watch as she underwent a colonoscopy. “I did it because I wanted to destigmatize the disease and demystify the procedure.”
The interviewer became the interviewee. Couric asks Marshall about his thoughts on why there has been a recent increase in colon cancer diagnoses among people under 50. Acknowledging a dearth of answers as to why, Marshall said cancer centers like Georgetown Lombardi were actively researching causes.
Couric and Marshall discuss balancing reality with maintaining hope after a cancer diagnosis, as a caregiver and a physician.
“I hope I can be a trusted voice in a cluttered landscape,” Couric says about the work she does to address important issues in our society today.