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The Sam Robb Fund

Like many boys, Sam loved playing sports – primarily basketball and football. At 6’5″ and 230 lbs. in the 10th grade, Sam was already a college prospect. But in the fall of 2002, X-rays of a nagging stress fracture in Sam’s left knee revealed the unthinkable… the diagnosis of bone cancer (osteosarcoma).

After an exhausting three months of chemotherapy, surgery to save his knee, and then more chemotherapy to eradicate the cancer, the news was bleak. Only 50% of the tumor had been killed, putting him into a high-risk group. His odds for survival dropped from the 75% to considerably less.

Even after hearing the news that his football career was over, he didn’t give up. He decided to play baseball. Although it didn’t come easy, particularly with a prosthetic knee, he managed to pitch for a highly competitive East Cobb team, winning the final game of a world series in Tampa. Although he never would achieve elite athletic status, he fought to realize his dream of being part of a winning team. Four and half years later, Sam and his family thought he had beaten his cancer demons. And then, more bad news. In the spring of 2007, Sam began to experience fatigue and discomfort in his lungs. The lung scan revealed that a grapefruit sized mass had taken over his lungs and chest cavity.

While many doctors felt the surgery to remove the tumor was life-threatening, one brave surgeon agreed with Sam to go for the “long ball” and remove the tumor…and a lung. Sam never made it off the operating table. The tumor was too difficult to extricate. But in many ways, the outcome was blessed. Sam never wanted sympathy, nor did he ever act like a sick person. He was good at everything except one thing – being sick.

Sam may be gone, but he will never be forgotten. The Robb family founded The Sam Robb Fund in 2007 to ensure that his spirit and determination will live on to benefit others. So, too, will his mantra, “Fightin’ Till the Last Breath,” continue to inspire children facing cancer. Since its founding, the fund has raised $1.3 million to fight childhood cancer. Its purpose is two-fold.

Even after hearing the news that his football career was over, he didn’t give up. He decided to play baseball. Although it didn’t come easy, particularly with a prosthetic knee, he managed to pitch for a highly competitive East Cobb team, winning the final game of a world series in Tampa. Although he never would achieve elite athletic status, he fought to realize his dream of being part of a winning team. Four and half years later, Sam and his family thought he had beaten his cancer demons. And then, more bad news. In the spring of 2007, Sam began to experience fatigue and discomfort in his lungs. The lung scan revealed that a grapefruit sized mass had taken over his lungs and chest cavity.

While many doctors felt the surgery to remove the tumor was life-threatening, one brave surgeon agreed with Sam to go for the “long ball” and remove the tumor…and a lung. Sam never made it off the operating table. The tumor was too difficult to extricate. But in many ways, the outcome was blessed. Sam never wanted sympathy, nor did he ever act like a sick person. He was good at everything except one thing – being sick.

Sam may be gone, but he will never be forgotten. The Robb family founded The Sam Robb Fund in 2007 to ensure that his spirit and determination will live on to benefit others. So, too, will his mantra, “Fightin’ Till the Last Breath,” continue to inspire children facing cancer. Since its founding, the fund has raised $1.3 million to fight childhood cancer. Its purpose is two-fold.

The Sam Robb Fellow

First, the Robb family believes it is critically important to help train young doctors who may make significant contributions to finding cures for childhood cancers, and they know Sam would be proud to support their education. To that end, the Sam Robb Fund funds the Sam Robb Fellow at the Aflac Cancer Center and Blood Disorders Services of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University School of Medicine. Fellows care for children with cancer with unmatched skill and dedication, and the importance of providing them with the very best training and preparation for this vital and difficult work cannot be overstated. To date, the Sam Robb has supported seven fellows, six of whom are now pediatric oncologists across the country.

Zuri Hudson, DO.MBA

Dr. Hudson obtained her undergraduate degree in Biology at Georgia Institute of Technology. She then completed an additional year of graduate work at Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee before matriculating into their combined DO/MBA program. During medical school, Dr. Hudson received numerous awards, including being named Student Doctor of the Year for several consecutive years and being highly honored for her outstanding commitment to community service. Following medical school, Dr. Hudson was matched at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, MO, for her pediatrics training. There, she excelled in residency across all areas.

Dr. Hudson has now developed a research interest in the care of children with solid tumors. Her studies lie in neuroblastoma, the most common pediatric solid tumor outside of the brain and one that contributes to a large number of pediatric cancer-related mortalities. Specifically, Dr. Hudson will study a type of immunotherapy—gamma delta T cells—and attempt to discern how they kill neuroblastoma cells and how neuroblastoma cells can develop resistance to them.

Former Sam Robb Fellows

Tanya Watt, MD

Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Children’s Health, Dallas, TX

Nicole Schlesinger McKinney, MD

Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Memorial Hospital, Aurora, CO

Jonathan Metts, MD

Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Johns Hopkins All-Children’s, St. Petersburg, FL

James Felker, MD

Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, PA

Jenny Shim, MD

Senior Research Associate, Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

Juhi Jain, MD

 Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Banner Health/University of Arizona Medical School

Robert Lisac, MD

Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

Tanya Watt, MD

Pediatric Hemotologist/Oncologist, Children’s Health, Dallas, TX

Nicole Schlesinger McKinney, MD

Pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist, Memorial Hospital, Aurora, CO

Jonathan Metts, MD

Pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist, Johns Hopkins All-Children’s, St. Petersburg, FL

Jim Felker, MD

Assistant Professor, Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Program, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, PA

Jenny Shim, MD

Senior Research Associate, Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

Juhi Jain, MD

Senior Research Associate, Pediatric Oncology, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

CURE's Counseling Program

Secondly, proceeds from the Sam Robb Fund support CURE’s Counseling Program. This program aims to address the psychosocial needs that accompany a childhood cancer diagnosis and course of treatment. Through this program, patient families are provided access to counseling services at a minimal cost to the family and are paired with qualified therapists in a geographically accessible area.

“Numerous studies have highlighted the importance of providing access to resources at the time of diagnosis and throughout treatment as the majority of patients and parents directly benefit from support from a psychosocial provider,” explains Annamarie Robb, Sam’s mother.

CURE's Counseling Program

Secondly, proceeds from the Sam Robb Fund support CURE’s Counseling Program. This program aims to address the psychosocial needs that accompany a childhood cancer diagnosis and course of treatment. Through this program, patient families are provided access to counseling services at a minimal cost to the family and are paired with qualified therapists in a geographically accessible area.

“Numerous studies have highlighted the importance of providing access to resources at the time of diagnosis and throughout treatment as the majority of patients and parents directly benefit from support from a psychosocial provider,” explains Annamarie Robb, Sam’s mother.

Purpose of the Fund

The goal of the Sam Robb Fund is two-fold: helping to train young pediatric oncologist through The Sam Robb Fellow, as well as supporting families in the thick of the battle with childhood cancer through CURE’s Counseling Program.