All gynecologic oncologist rock band ‘get their groove on’

On the night of Thursday, June 8, it’ll be a time for celebrating life, recovery and independent rock music. Six gynecologic oncologists are bringing their band No Evidence of Disease or N.E.D to the Juneau Arts and Culture Center.

More than just to “get their groove on” (lyrics from their recorded song “What I Meant to Say” in their album “6 Degrees”) N.E.D is coming to Juneau to support two Alaskan non-profits: Cancer Connection and Let Every Woman Know-Alaska. This will be their first stop on their Alaska Tour that will also be performing in Anchorage and Haines.

N.E.D has been together since 2008 after a few of the members met and played cover songs at the Society of Gynecologic Surgeons, a national conference.

“We played a show there before we were a band … we got the idea why not do original music,” said band member Doctor Joanie Hope in a phone interview. “We got a small record to get on board with the goal to bring the cause out there in a creative way.”

In 2009, they recorded their six-song, debut album. Since then they’ve created three CD’s of original music, and have also written music for the soundtrack to the 2013 documentary about their band that shares the same title: “No Evidence of Disease.” Hope said the documentary is “really about looking through the window of six doctors and our patients.”

“Our songs are not about cancer per se. They’re rock and roll, independent rock songs with a wide range of influences. We write together on universal themes of rock and roll, love, loss struggle, joy, pain, and heartache,” Hope said. Having such a wide range of appeal gives N.E.D the opportunity to reach out to a broader span of people and “once they fall in love with the music, that opens the door to make them aware of the cause,” Hope said. “It’s a really great way to get awareness out there.”

The list of doctor-musicians consists of: vocalist and guitarist John Boggess, M.D., from the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of North Carolina; Joanie Hope, M.D., also a vocalist and guitarist from the Gynecologic Oncologist at Alaska Women’s Cancer Care in Anchorage; drummer and percussionist Nimesh Nagarsheth, M.D., who is on faculty at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City and Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in Englewood, New Jersey; bass and harmonica player William “Rusty” Robinson, M.D., a Professor of Gynecologic Oncology at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans; guitarist John Soper, M.D., from the Hendricks Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine; and guitarist William Winter, M.D., a gynecologic oncologist at Compass Oncology in Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon.

Although the comprised group of six are from all corners of the country, they take the time to digitally write their music together. They tour across the nation and perform music that has been praised by widely circulated newspapers such as The Washington Post that called them “Oncologists by day, rock starts by night” and from Forbes as “A vibrant band of doctors rocking for woman with cancer.” N.E.D has also received positive coverage by The New York Times and USA Today. All of their music is available on iTunes and Spotify.

There have been many positive impacts made by N.E.D.

“We brought the band up (to Anchorage) in 2012. And with the help of a patient of mine and a sister of a patient of mine we were able to raise a significant amount of money,” Hope said. “It started with ‘hey lets bring the band up’. But then ‘hey lets do more than that. Lets have a conference in awareness.’ Before we knew it we started Let Every Woman Know. Bringing the band up was the match that lit the fire to start the movement up here in Alaska.”

Hope is currently the president of Let Every Woman Know-Alaska.

Let Every Woman Know-Alaska promotes early awareness and support regarding gynecologic cancers. Sheryl Weinberg, a board member of Let Every Woman Know-Alaska said that N.E.D has “a great sense of humor and are just so full of life. N.E.D is really heightened awareness regarding these cancers.”

In July 2016 the American Medical Association listed 506 physicians practicing gynecologic oncology in the country.

“Gynecologic oncology is such a specialized discipline, there aren’t many of them, but they are such a strong network in support of their clients,” she said.

Let Every Woman Know-Alaska is a young organization, beginning in 2012, yet has made leaps and bounds in creating statewide support and awareness. For example, their Arts of Healing weekend, Alyeska Climbathon and Extra-Toughs, a program that lasts 16 weeks to help improve overall health and physical conditions and mental support for woman who experience gynecological cancers.

“Be aware down there,” Weinberg stated as being their motto. “There is certainly taboos about the parts of our bodies that are more private and sensitive. It’s so important to be able to talk about gynecological cancers, but you don’t know if you don’t seek information.”

This concert is what Weinberg calls “ a joyous event that is more a celebration of life.”

There will still be informational packets available at the JACC that will have information about Let Every Woman Know-Alaska but also about the early signs of gynecologic cancer.

“It’s going to be a great concert and a great cause, lots of dancing and celebration. I hope to see everyone there,” Weinberg said.

Cancer Connection’s National Survivor Day Event will be preceding N.E.D’s concert. Cancer Connection supports a broader range of cancers and is based out of Juneau, but services all of Southeast. This national event is geared toward recognizing their honorees.

“It’s been one of those years. There’s so many people we could have picked. It’s a tough decisions for our board,” current Cancer Connection Board Member and National Cancer Survivor Day Coordinator Tish Griffin Satre said.

“This year we’ll be recognizing as Medical Professional of the year the entire ‘boob squad’ of Bartlett Regional Hospital. They are coming (to the event) in force. They all have been such a great support team. And great with early detecting,” she said.

The Corporate Honoree will be going to Southeast Medical Clinic.

“I can’t tell you how supportive they’ve been, we get the most connection through them,” Satre said. The volunteer of the year is Becky Thomas, a survivor who works at the Juneau Recreation Center.

“She’s been doing physical fitness things and bringing the cancer community together, both women and men, to talk about exercise. She’s very holistically focused,” she said.

Survivor of the Year goes to Terry White, a man who hiked Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for leukemia lymphoma.

“There’s pretty amazing people out there but (White)’s probably the most amazing,” said Satre.

Cancer Connection’s Event will be 5-7 p.m., and at 7:30 p.m. N.E.D will begin their concert.

“We want to make a noise. There’s been a wall of silence around it and hopefully we can, we can bring some noise so that we’re heard and so that our patients are heard,” said Doctor Soper on N.E.D’s website.

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