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Medical students grow mustaches for a cause

Jennifer Sprouse • Dec 1, 2012 at 8:06 PM

For a group of more than 30 male medical students from East Tennessee State University’s Quillen College of Medicine, donning white coats and stethoscopes are not the only thing they had in common during November as they grew out mustaches to help raise money and awareness for prostate and testicular cancer.

The global campaign known as “Movember,” which inspired the male population to grow out and maintain the trendy facial hair in support of men’s health, reached the medical school in November 2011. About 10 Quillen students participated and raised $400 for the cause, which inspired the first- and second-year medical students to raise the bar this year by aiming for a goal of $5,000.

Jeremiah Gaddy, a second-year student and one of the organizers of the 2011 Quillen Movember team, said the group of 37 men this year shaved once at the beginning of November and from then on left their mustaches alone throughout the duration of the month

Gaddy said the group got into growing out their mustaches, but still kept tabs on everyone.

“We always just give each other a hard time,” he said. “Whoever has the worst mustache we always give a hard time, but ... we make sure everybody’s on point with their mustache.”

And while others were simply growing out mustaches, Philip Milam, another second-year student, decided to sweeten the deal by betting Dr. Tom Kwasigroch, the associate dean for student affairs at Quillen, that if he raised $5,000 on his own, then he would shave his head down to the skin.

Milam, who has pretty long locks that he had been growing out for about seven years, said the other half of the bet was that if Kwasigroch did not reach his individual fundraising goal, then Kwasigroch would have to shave his beard and mustache that he’s sported for 41 years.

As the group met to take pictures Friday afternoon at the Student Study Center, Milam said he was getting a little nervous about the possibility of having to shave his head.

“The bet with cutting it I never actually thought would even be close to ever happening,” he said. “It’s been a little nerve-racking lately, because (Kwasigroch) has some powerful friends. He’s a little bit behind his mark, but it’s still a cause of concern. My wife is not excited about the prospect. She’s never known me with short hair.”

Gaddy and Milam both said the group signed up and registered on movember.com and then were sent promotional information and packs with posters, bracelets and stickers for the group to give out. Anyone who wanted to donate to the prostate and testicular cancer fundraising efforts could give to the entire group, or individual group member totals.

Those participating also sent out emails and Facebook notices to friends and family members asking for any amount in monetary donations they could give for the cause.

“I sent out a big Facebook blast and I sent out an email to 200 family members, just telling them about Movember and the mission of it,” Milam said.

To help celebrate the end of their mustaches and the monthlong fundraising efforts, Gaddy said the group decided to dress in their “manliest” attire.

“The idea is to just kind of celebrate men’s health and being a man,” he said. “We wanted to kind of ham it up and have everybody come out with whatever they thought to be manlike. Today was just kind of the end of the monthlong harassment ... from friends and family.”

On Saturday, Gaddy said the medical students raised $6,000 and that Kwasigroch raised $1,659, which may leave Kwasigroch looking for a razor.

Gaddy said the experience has been fun for the group and he hopes “Movember” will continue to get bigger and better each year.

“We want to just promote awareness and get the community involved,” he said. “It’s just a lot of fun.”

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