TAMPA — The Moffitt McKinley Outpatient Center has officially opened its Gruden Huddle Room with unapologetic football analogies.
What else would you expect from a room bearing the name of ESPN analyst and former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. The room embodies a football coach's approach to battling cancer, one that falls in line with the way Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute operates.
"As a coach, we would treat the opponent (whether another team or cancer itself) the same — we want to dominate them," Gruden said during a special ceremony to christen the room last week. "Cancer is a tough, relentless opponent, and we want to have a place where we can come up with the best game plan to fight it."
The Gruden Huddle Room is just that. It's a meeting room where doctors of different specializations can meet, share ideas and formulate strategies to combat cancer.
According to Medscape Medical News, cancer will affect one in two men and one in three women in the United States, and the number of new cases is expected to double by 2050. The predictions are based on statistics collected by the Surveillance Epidemiology, and End Results, or SEER, program at the National Cancer Institute.
Indeed, it's hard to find a family not affected in some way by cancer. Rebecca Wolf, who works at the St. Petersburg Police Department, was diagnosed with Stage 2A breast cancer in March 2013. Wolf underwent six rounds of chemotherapy and a double mastectomy during her battle, but her appointment just two days before the opening of the Huddle Room revealed that she was clear of cancer.
Jon Gruden was visibly moved by Wolf's speech. His mother, Kathy, is a cancer survivor.
"I remember when we first got the call, I was coaching at Southeast Missouri State and Jay was playing at Louisville," Gruden said. "Mom and Dad were at the (Louisville) game. It turned our world upside down.
"I've had a lot of close friends battle (cancer)."
Gruden said that is was Moffitt Foundation board director Ed Droste who came up with the idea for the Huddle Room, a place where multidiscipline teams can talk about specific protocols.
"(At Moffitt) it's about team science, team care, all departments are based on the disease, specialists all work together from the outset," Droste said.
Added Gruden: "What I love about this is that it's a collaboration. Maybe this doctor has a different idea than that doctor. This army of doctors needs a place to 'huddle.' "
The event was a bit of a family affair. Gruden's wife, Cindy, who has been on the Moffitt board of directors since 2010, spoke briefly at the event.
"I had my annual doctor's appointment and they called back to say I was healthy," she said during her address. "I know that many other patients got another type of call."
Cindy Gruden is no stranger to charity work. Just this past fall, she participated in a Tampa version of Dancing With the Stars in which the beneficiaries were several local charities. When Droste approached her about serving on the Moffitt board in 2010, Cindy Gruden said, it wasn't a hard decision.
"This is such a great organization," she said. "I hope that if I'm ever in a situation like this that strangers will come together and help me.
"Everyone is touched by cancer, we want to pay it forward."
Even the Grudens' son Michael was a part of the ceremony as the DJ.
The program wrapped and the Grudens were presented with a pair of Gruden Huddle Room lab coats. The crowd then made its way to the Monday Night Football tour bus parked outside. The Grudens transformed the back of the bus, typically used to film interviews and promos, into a vehicle of hope by using the area for their final interviews.
"Our goal is to create awareness," Gruden said. "We want to win. We expect to win."
Contact Andy Warrener at [email protected]