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College Cup challenge heats up MUSC's competitive side for a common goal

Phil the Pill mascot stands next to MUSC sign

As part of the College Cup challenge, MUSC College of Pharmacy Dean Dr. Philip Hall will run a 5K in the college’s pill bottle-shaped mascot costume.

“If I can run a 5K in a 5-foot pill bottle, you can get out there and raise money for LOWVELO!”

That’s the message Philip Hall, Pharm.D., dean of the College of Pharmacy at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), hopes to get across to the university’s other five colleges as they embark on a new competition to see which college can achieve the most participation in this year’s LOWVELO.

The competition, dubbed the College Cup, is an opportunity for students, faculty and staff alike to show off their college’s dedication to funding lifesaving cancer research — all while being active and staying socially connected during remote learning due to COVID-19. 

The college that has the highest percentage of its students registered by Nov. 13 will be crowned the winner, a title that includes a celebratory plaque to display, a virtual social hour with MUSC leadership and, of course, bragging rights.

For Hall, showing that the College of Pharmacy is the best of the best means donning the college’s pill bottle-shaped mascot costume, appropriately named “Phil the Pill,” and running five kilometers around MUSC Hollings Cancer Center alongside his daughter. He hopes the initiative will bring recognition to both LOWVELO and National Pharmacists Month, which is celebrated in October.

“When I came to MUSC in 1991, Hollings did not exist, so it has been exciting to see the center grow from an idea into a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center,” said Hall, who spent 20 years practicing as an oncology pharmacist at Hollings before moving into College of Pharmacy administration in 2010. 

“As so many of our new cancer therapies are pills or tablets, it seems natural that Phil the Pill would bring ‘hope in a bottle!’” 

While running in costume is one potential route to success in bringing home the College Cup championship title, students in the colleges of Medicine and Health Professions are taking a different approach. Both colleges plan to promote participation through their elected “wellness leaders,” who are charged with keeping their classmates connected and physically active.

“As one of the health and wellness chairs for the Division of Physician Assistant Studies class of 2022, we like to involve our class in events that support our overall health and well-being, while in a difficult program of study, when it matters the most,” said Sarah Lorick, a student in MUSC’s College of Health Professions. “We all feel very passionate about cancer research because cancer has either affected us already personally or will most certainly affect our patients that we care for in the next few years.”

According to Lorick, the virtual aspect of this year’s event appeals to her and her classmates because it allows flexibility for their busy schedules and a way for them to work toward a common goal despite social distancing. 

“I can’t make any promises about us winning, but we have some pretty active people in our class that could ride or run for hours, any day of the week!”

For MUSC College of Medicine student Errett Jacks, who rode 100 miles in last year’s LOWVELO, the positive experience he had during the event’s inaugural race was enough to bring him back for more.

“To have seen this event grow from a word-of-mouth idea in its infancy to become a well-known and impactful event through a partnership with MUSC Hollings Cancer Center and other gracious sponsors is remarkable,” said Jacks, who is set to graduate in 2021.

This year’s College Cup challenge began Oct. 5 and will run through the end of the event, with the winner being announced during a virtual celebration on Nov. 14. Standings for the challenge will be announced weekly and displayed on the TVs in MUSC’s library, giving each college an opportunity to step up its game if it begins to fall behind.

Registration for this year’s LOWVELO is free (or $25 for a T-shirt), and while fundraising is encouraged, there is no minimum fundraising requirement, allowing everyone to participate. All fitness levels are welcome.

The College Cup challenge will also include a weekly registration contest, which enters every student who registers that week into a drawing for a Hollings Cancer Center T-shirt and ball cap and a LOWVELO water bottle or cooler bag. The contest resets each Monday.

While the challenge is expected to bring out the competitive side of MUSC’s students, faculty and staff, the colleges acknowledge they share a common goal — to change what’s possible in cancer care.

Jacks said he loves the cause. “If you’ve ever spent time or worked at Hollings, you know the fighting spirit exhibited by the patients and their care teams. To pedal in support of cancer research, alongside survivors and others impacted by this disease, is truly inspirational and empowering as we all fight toward the goal of increasing cancer survival rates and improved outcomes,” he said. 

“Exercising for a cause — it just means more!”

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