RECAP: Meso Awareness Day

Mesothelioma Awareness Day 2013 was a major success. We had volunteers from across the country represent the Meso Foundation at the Today show in New York City, organize and participate in volunteer events, and join us for our New York Conference and Congressional Briefing. The community raised immense awareness and huge amounts of funds to support mesothelioma research. Below, we recap the successful events surrounding the day.


Today Show Group

Bright and early on Mesothelioma Awareness Day, Meso Foundation staff and community members gathered at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City sporting “” t-shirts for the filming of the Today Show. The turnout was excellent and the group raised immense awareness for the disease and the Meso Foundation.  Rich Mosca had the opportunity to speak with Al Roker about mesothelioma and the Foundation. Another of our volunteers, Marina Mintz, received additional airtime after being chosen for an ambush makeover on the show.


Dr. Alexander at Congressional Briefing

Later in the morning on September 26 the Meso Foundation held a congressional briefing at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Seventeen Congressional staffers attended the briefing, including some senior staffers. Moderated by Melinda Kotzian, Meso Foundation CEO, the briefing featured presentations from Dr. Rich Alexander, surgical oncologist and clinical research, as well as Lisa Gonneville, a mesothelioma patient. Dr. Alexander discussed the effects of mesothelioma on the body and the research behind the disease. Lisa shared the story of her diagnosis and battle with mesothelioma. Melinda provided insight into the need for research funding.


On the evening of September 26, Meso Foundation staff and volunteers again gathered in New York City for a community dinner at Ted’s Montana Grill. The dinner was hosted by Hanne Mintz, Meso Foundation Board of Directors member. This was a great time for the community to catch up and reflect on their great accomplishments of the day.


Mesothelioma Infographic

A social media campaign was launched in recognition of Mesothelioma Awareness Day. The Foundation posted a series of graphics on Facebook. The first of the series told the story of twin sisters, one of whom, Lindsay, was diagnosed with mesothelioma at the age of 20 and continues to battle the disease six years later. The second graphic told the story of Courtney, who lost her father to mesothelioma. The graphics encouraged Facebook viewers to share their story, emphasizing the fact that this disease affects countless individuals. On the morning of Meso Awareness Day, the Foundation launched an infographic explaining the disease and encouraging viewers to share the post to raise awareness. The graphic proved very successful, as it reached over 21,000 viewers on Facebook.


Kayaking 4 Meso

During the days and weeks surrounding September 26, twenty-two volunteer events were organized and held all over the nation to raise funds for the mesothelioma research. The events were held throughout many states, including New York, Florida, Ohio, West Virginia, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and so on. Thousands of attendees participated in raising mesothelioma awareness and funds. As donations are still coming in, proceeds from all of the events are being tallied. The total amount of proceeds will be reported in the coming weeks.

Many of our volunteer events were featured in media outlets. Check out the articles below:

RODs Benefit for Meso, an annual event in West Virginia organized by Missy Dorsey Bowles, raised over $25,000 for the Meso Foundation. This was a record-breaking amount for Missy. The event was featured in the following news outlets:

Yvonne Hall and Donna Bruzewski were interviewed by two media outlets in Lexington, Kentucky. Watch the videos listed here:

Evie Lichtenwalter, a college student, wrote the following article about her sudden mesothelioma diagnosis:


Dr. Lee Krug and Dr. Harvey Pass

On Friday, September 27th, the Meso Foundation brought together the New York region’s top mesothelioma experts for our annual conference, Malignant Mesothelioma: Knowledge is Hope, at the Harvard Club of New York City. Attendance sold out as patients, family members, doctors, and community members joined us for the conference. Topics discussed included mesothelioma surgery and chemotherapy, genetics of mesothelioma, the importance of biomarkers, radiation therapy, clinical trials, and asbestos exposure.


Be sure to read our two press releases detailing Meso Awareness Day activities and our Congressional Briefing:

Regional Conference on Malignant Mesothelioma: Destination New York


All of us at the Meso Foundation have been very aware of the need mesothelioma patients and families have to connect with others facing similar challenges, and learn about their disease and its treatment options.

For this reason, for the second consecutive year, we are organizing a regional conference taking place in New York City.

On Friday, September 27, at 9 AM, please join us at the Harvard Club for this one-day conference on malignant mesothelioma for patients, their families, doctors, and others wishing to learn more about this disease. The conference is supported by an educational grant from Levy Phillips & Konigsberg, LLP.

We put together an impressive line-up of mesothelioma experts from the New York area who will discuss topics including standard treatments, ongoing research, environmental/occupational exposure risk, and legal implications. Read the agenda here. 


You can watch below our last year’s conference:

The cost to register is $25 per person (includes all sessions, breakfast and lunch). You may register by visiting or by calling the Meso Foundation at (703) 879-3797. Registration fees will be donated back to the Meso Foundation. Availability is limited. You must register before our deadline of September 10.

If you are traveling to the conference and need a hotel room, we put together a list of hotels available nearby. Due to the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting taking place around the same time as our conference, the hotels near the Harvard Club and throughout New York City could be very expensive, so make sure you book early.

Why Two Talking Heads are Better than One

By Mary, Hesdorffer, NP, Executive Director
Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation

By now, many of you have seen the announcement that Melinda Kotzian has been promoted to CEO. Last week, following our very first announcement of this excellent news, I received a few quizzical emails expressing concern at the change in leadership of the Foundation.

I would like to set your minds at ease that this is not a change in leadership but recognition of a strong partnership that has been in place and continued to develop when I assumed the role of Executive Director.

I believe that to be a strong leader one must recognize their own strengths and weaknesses. I accepted this position with the caveat that Melinda would be my equal partner, utilizing her years of experience in the world of nonprofits, thus freeing me up to continue my work with the medical and mesothelioma communities.

Mary and Melinda working side by side during a recent meeting.

Mary and Melinda working side by side during a recent meeting.

Thanks to Melinda’s solid grasp of the business side of the Foundation, my role is now stronger than ever as I continue to focus on the medical and scientific areas of the organization, while simultaneously expanding our network of relationships. Melinda and I have been able to problem solve easily, both recognizing each other’s expertise, and have managed to reach consensus amicably and with both good humor and shared vision. We are more alike than different and I have felt very fortunate to have Melinda at my side. Her promotion was a recognition well deserved for her often behind-the-scenes expertise that is crucial to the future of the organization. I expect that you will continue to see changes at the Foundation in our staff and program levels but this is to keep the momentum going in addressing the growing needs of the organization. Please join me in congratulating Melinda on her promotion and sharing in our joint vision for the future of the Foundation.

PRESS RELEASE: Same Leaders, New Leadership Structure

August 2, 2013
Maja Belamaric
Phone: (703) 879-3822 

Same Leaders, New Leadership Structure

The Meso Foundation has a new leadership structure. Mary Hesdorffer, NP and Melinda Kotzian have been sharing leadership responsibilities since August of 2012, with Ms. Hesdorffer focusing on research and science activities and Ms. Kotzian focusing on the business side of the organization.

Effective immediately, Melinda Kotzian, who has thus far been the Chief Operating Officer, will now serve as the Foundation’s first Chief Executive Officer. This change in title provides Ms. Kotzian with full authority to act as an officer of the Foundation. Despite this change in title, the actual leadership structure will not change. Ms. Hesdorffer and Ms. Kotzian will continue sharing executive duties as they have been for the past year.

“I’m thrilled that Melinda’s title is finally in sync with her responsibilities,” said Mary Hesdorffer, NP, Meso Foundation’s executive director. “She has been working hard on behalf of the Foundation and this change will help her do even more,” she added.

Melinda Kotzian has been with the Meso Foundation since 2010. Prior to working at the Meso Foundation, she was at the Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation , a small family foundation in the Washington, DC area which works on issues of social justice and helping those in need. Ms. Kotzian is a member of the Grants Management Network, Center for Nonprofit Advancement and the Nonprofit Professionals Network DC.

The Meso Foundation is the only 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating mesothelioma and easing the suffering caused by it. The Meso Foundation actively seeks philanthropic support to fund peer-reviewed mesothelioma research; provide patient support services and education; and advocate Congress for increased federal funding for mesothelioma research. The Meso Foundation is the only non-government funder of peer reviewed scientific research to establish more effective treatments for mesothelioma and, ultimately, a cure for this rare, but extremely aggressive, cancer. To date, the Foundation has awarded over $8.2 million to research.

More information is available at