Doctors Go Bald to Benefit Childhood Cancer Research

It was a little after 5pm Thursday March 12 when John Hipps, David Delgado and Ilia Buhtoiarov bid farewell to their full heads of hair.

And they couldn’t be happier with their decisions.

The three pediatric oncologists from American Family Children’s Hospital donned green aprons, sat in the brightly lit studio of Ch. 15 in Madison during the evening news, and with cameras rolling, had their hair mowed down until they were completely bald.

The head shavings were done to benefit the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which raises money to support childhood cancer programs and research. The trio raised money through pledges from family, friends and organizations. This year, the organization hopes to raise $20 million and encourage 35,000 men and women to participate as “shavees.”

Buhtoiarov, who came to Wisconsin after working as an oncologist in Kurdistan, was more than happy to lose his dark, curly locks for a good cause.

As an oncologist, I know what it’s like to battle cancer from a patient’s standpoint, he said. “It is very difficult to explain to children why they have to lose their hair through chemotherapy. By doing this, we are trying to bring ourselves closer to the patients by showing them it isn’t scary. It’s just an event in their lives they can go through and successfully.”

I get to work with these families and help take care of their kids throughout the whole process, said Hipps, a native of North Carolina. “But doing something like this actually says you support these kids not just in terms of being a medical doctor, but also in terms of being another human being.”

Delgado, who was born in Chillicothe, Illinois, also said losing his hair was his way of showing support for kids who lose theirs through cancer treatment.

We are showing that we are willing to unite with them to help improve their health and raise money and awareness for pediatric cancer, he said.

While none of the volunteers considered going bald to be a “hair-raising” experience, a few had some concerns.

I’m not really nervous about losing my hair, because it will grow back, I think, said Hipps. “However, I will be concerned if the weather gets colder in the next couple of weeks.”