Bryan Rodman is a problem solver at heart. He's the type of guy to look for a solution rather than sulk over a problem. So after his melanoma diagnosis during his junior year of college in December 2003, the 21-year-old Rodman hit the books to research his disease.
"At the time, because I was studying molecular and cellular biology, my initial reaction was to figure out exactly what it was," he said. "I wanted to know about the cancer and what it was doing. I don't think it really settled in [that I had been diagnosed with cancer] until after it was removed."
Within a month of his diagnosis, Rodman underwent surgery to remove his cancer. Looking back, he admits his treatment was quick and relatively painless compared to the grueling chemotherapy and radiation regimens that many other cancer survivors face. He knows the damage that toxic treatments can ravage on a person's body. He says he's fortunate that his cancer was found at an early stage before it could spread to other organs, like his brain.
When a close friend, Joanna Steinberg, told Rodman about the Waxman Foundation's mission to reprogram cancer cells and research minimally toxic therapies, the Foundation's unique concept intrigued him. In 2005, after Steinberg launched the Millennial Society—the junior board of the Waxman Foundation— Rodman joined the Society as one of its founding members. He has been a crucial member of the executive committee ever since.
"In college, I always liked the idea of going after something at its root and understanding how systems work," he said. The approach that the Waxman Foundation takes in targeting cancer appealed to him. Not only that, but as Rodman explains it to his friends, "the Foundation funds research in the way cancer forms, and drives researchers to work together—which is rare in science. It makes the most sense to support that kind of collaboration because you can't figure out anything if you don't look at the root."
This year, the Millennial Society will raise money to support a multi-year grant to research young adults cancers. Rodman, a seven-year cancer survivor, said his passion to fund research is not rooted in his personal story, but more as wanting to solve a problem.
"Just because you don't have cancer, it doesn't mean you aren't affected by it. Cancer is detrimental to society," he said. "We have the means to learn about it and to study it. We need to figure it out because everybody knows someone who has cancer."