By Katie Nash
Each November, men across the country grow out beards and mustaches for “Movember” to bring awareness to an issue not frequently receiving the attention it deserves: men’s health.
Statistics show that men live an average of six years less than women and are significantly more likely to die from cardiac disease, cancer, and suicide. Men are three times less likely to visit a doctor for health issues, and this number increases for men in poor and minority communities.
For Charles Sanders, MD, the issue of men’s health is intensely personal.
Originally hailing from Texas, Dr. Sanders was General Director of Massachusetts General Hospital for 10 years as an internal medicine physician, and later came to North Carolina to serve as chairman and CEO of pharmaceutical company Glaxo, Inc.
Dr. Sanders also served on the board of trustees of UNC-Chapel Hill and as chair of the UNC Health Care board of directors. However, he became a patient at UNC when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1996. 23 years later, his experience as a cancer survivor has become his motivation for promoting men’s health awareness.
“Back in the days when I was diagnosed, the only option was surgery,” Dr. Sanders says. “The reason I’m interested in UNC’s Men’s Clinic is that now the treatments have progressed significantly. If I were facing the same situation today, I’d have a world-class team to consult with me and access to all the options available, including the most recent technology and advances in diagnosis. It’s a unique way of delivering healthcare, and that’s what makes UNC stand out as second to none.”
It is this first-rate treatment that led to the establishment of the Charles and Ann Sanders Society. On September 28th at the new UNC Urology Men’s Health Clinic at Carolina Pointe, Dr. and Mrs. Sanders were recognized for their commitment to improving men’s health through establishing a society for donors who have made gifts of $50,000 or more to the initiative.
Dr. Sanders credits his former physician, UNC’s Culley Carson, MD, and his team for leading the UNC Men’s Health Program, one of the first comprehensive initiatives of its kind in the United States.
Dr. Carson is Emeritus Distinguished Professor in the UNC Department of Urology and is the former President of the American Society for Men’s Health and Congress President for the International Society of Men’s Health. While Dr. Carson retired in 2016, he remains active in UNC’s Men’s Health initiatives. His continued involvement with the initiative, which is currently led by Dr. Eric Wallen, Professor of Urological Oncology in the UNC School of Medicine, has been vitally important.
“Gifts like Dr. Sanders’ are helping us narrow the gap of life expectancy between men and women,” Dr. Carson says. “We want to help provide better care and bring men to the doctor in their 30s and 40s instead of later, being more proactive.”
Funding by the members of the Sanders Society also powers extensive research on men’s health disparities in rural North Carolina and beyond, as well as a fellowship for physicians to focus on men’s health.
“There are many complicated health issues specific to men, so you really want to make sure patients get the best care from of a team of first-class physicians, which is what Carolina has – especially Dr. Carson,” Dr. Sanders says. “I want to help this team make men aware of the options that are available, give them the motivation to get the care they need, and the power to be more involved in the selection of their health care and treatment options.”
Dr. Carson gratefully recognizes donors to the Men’s Health Program like Dr. Sanders that invest in the research, education, and patient care to improve health across generations in North Carolina communities and beyond.
“Without people like Dr. Sanders who are really taking the lead in supporting men’s health, we wouldn’t be able to do any of this,” Dr. Carson says. “It truly would not be possible without philanthropy.“