Black Female Excellence takes center stage at St. Jude Spirit of the Dream

Photo caption: Dr. Sian Proctor, an accomplished civilian astronaut, pilot, advocate for women of color in the space industry, entrepreneur, and professor of American geology

For the first time in its history, the St. Jude Spirit of the Dream event selected women for each of its highest accolades: the St. Jude Spirit of the Dream award and the Legacy Award. The event, held Thursday, Sept. 29 at The Kent, a premier event space and neighbor to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®, brings Memphians together to celebrate the achievements of African Americans who embody the lifesaving mission of St. Jude and its founder, Danny Thomas who believed that no child, regardless of race should die in the dawn of life.

Dr. Patricia Adams-Graves

Dr. Patricia Adams-Graves, professor in the hematology/oncology division at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and a provider at Regional One Health is one of few hematologists in Memphis to serve and care for adults living with Sickle Cell Disease, and Dr. Sian Proctor, an accomplished civilian astronaut, pilot, advocate for women of color in the space industry, entrepreneur, and professor of American geology, were both presented with the Spirit of the Dream award. Emily Greer, a 30-year executive leader, most recently as Chief Administrative Officer for ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude, received the St. Jude Legacy Award for her tireless service to St. Jude as a trusted advisor to CEO, Rick Shadyac. Though Greer retired in 2021, she remains committed to the mission of St. Jude.

Each honoree has made a significant impact far beyond their local communities. Together, their multiple accomplishments reflect the foundational pillars of St. Jude: research, treatment, and philanthropy. The event was a success thanks to

“I didn’t come to ALSAC almost 30 years ago with the idea of sitting here today,” said Greer. “I came with the idea of serving

Emily Greer

these children and these families who get the worst news of all: that your child has cancer. And I just tried to do my small part in making a difference in their lives. It’s an honor to be recognized in this way to do work that was my privilege to do.”

The event also comes on the heels of the first anniversary of Inspiration4, the first all-civilian spaceflight to orbit the Earth, which landed safely back on Earth thanks to Dr. Proctor’s skillful navigation as the mission pilot. Inspiration4 captivated space fans the world over and raised nearly $250 million for the lifesaving mission of St. Jude.

“When I won the prosperity seat on the Inspiration4 mission, my entire life shifted,” said Dr. Proctor. “Becoming connected to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the mission of ending childhood cancer resonated with me to my core and allowed me to unleash the very best version of myself.”

During the St. Jude Spirit of the Dream event, guests heard about the strides made by St. Jude on racial equity since its founding in 1962 as the South’s first fully integrated children’s hospital. As part of this commitment to racial equity, St. Jude launched a sickle cell program in 1968 to study this disease, which disproportionately affects African American people. That program has grown to become one of the largest in the U.S.

As a physician in Memphis, Dr. Adams-Graves continues to extend quality care to sickle cell patients in the greater Midsouth region. “Receiving this award is an honor, pleasure and validation of the service that I have been walking in my life to improve the quality of life for individuals, both children and adults, living with sickle cell disease,” said Dr. Adams-Graves.

Past honorees include Dr. Rudolph Jackson, one of the first Black doctors at St. Jude, Penny Hardaway, University of Memphis Tigers head men’s basketball coach, and the city of Memphis.

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