By Anita Creamer, a Vitals contributor
During his 35-year career in healthcare, Sutter Health Interim President & CEO James Conforti has seen the traumatic impact of cancer on patients, their families and their caregivers. That’s why, as a healthcare leader, he has long supported the efforts of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to fund research that may find treatment and cures to help blood cancer patients.
This support became infinitely more meaningful for Conforti in 2019, after he experienced two devastating losses of loved ones to leukemia.
His oldest brother, Mark, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2018. He was a West Point graduate and military veteran, a lawyer and family man. On July 30, 2019, 70 days after receiving a bone marrow transplant, Mark Conforti died in Seattle.
“My brother put up a courageous fight,” says Conforti. “After that, advocacy became very personal for me. Our treatments show what tremendous things clinicians can do, but we have a very long way to go.”
Not long after Mark’s memorial service, James received more heartbreaking news. His brother-in-law in Northern California had also died of acute myeloid leukemia, leaving behind his wife and two young children.
“I saw the impact of leukemia on our family in 2019,” says Conforti, “and then the COVID pandemic hit in 2020. And I saw my sister-in-law, this young schoolteacher, having to teach her classes from a virtual environment, while her children also began attending school remotely—all while dealing with the loss of their husband and father.”
See here for more information about Light the Night on Oct. 29, 2022 at Sutter Health Park in Sacramento.
This week, Conforti will participate in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s annual Light the Night celebration in Sacramento, taking place at 5 p.m., Oct. 29 at Sutter Health Park. Sutter Health is one of the presenting sponsors.
At the walk, survivors, friends, families and co-workers gather to celebrate, honor or remember those touched by cancer. Walk participants carry illuminated lanterns—white in honor of survivors and the power of research, red in support of patients and finding cures and gold in remembrance of those who have died.
“When you see all the lanterns lit up together, it’s a very powerful moment,” says Conforti. “We’re all in this together. It’s very emotional, but we also raise a tremendous amount of money for research and treatment.”
Last year, when Conforti served as the corporate walk chairman for the Greater Sacramento area, the event raised $800,000 for blood cancer research. This year’s event marks his last Light the Night walk with Sutter Health.
To him, the walk brings resonance to the Sutter Health mission of enhancing the well-being of people through a not-for-profit commitment to compassion and excellence.
“The Sutter Health mission lives in the communities we serve, not just within the walls of our clinics and hospitals,” he says. “At the Light the Night walk, we match our people with our mission, and our Sutter Health Park sponsorship provides the right environment to host the event.”