Fireside Chat with Chris Draft

Chris Draft is a former NFL linebacker turned powerful advocate for lung cancer awareness, research and screening after his wife, Keasha, passed away from lung cancer at age 38.

Ontada’s president, Susan Shiff, and McKesson’s VP/GM, GPO Services & Business Solutions, Devon Womack, had the opportunity to sit down with Chris for a fireside chat to learn more about why he believes it is so important that we break the stigmas around lung cancer and open up more conversations around treatment, research and survivorship.

Devon: Through The Chris Draft Family Foundation and Team Draft, you have been working to advance lung cancer care for a while now. What have you learned about advocacy throughout your journey?

Chris: We need to be honest about the history: in lung cancer, prevention has been the goal – not survivorship. The conversation has been focused on risk management, and less so on what happens when someone is diagnosed.

In the lung cancer community, we need to make the transition to where survivorship is the goal. In other cancers, this has already been done – but in lung cancer, we need to say it louder: survivorship is the goal.

Susan: At Ontada, an issue we are particularly interested in is social determinants of health. In your work, one of your focus areas has been the veteran population – what is your personal connection to this work and what can we do better for this group?

Chris: My uncle passed from lung cancer, and he was a veteran who started smoking when he began in the Army. My brother also served in the Navy and was on an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf. There, they couldn’t take breaks – but they could take smoke breaks. We need to appreciate this culture for what it is and in doing so, it’s very easy to see that veterans are a subgroup that could greatly benefit from lung cancer screening.

I’ve been blessed to be able to work with the NFL in the Salute to Service effort to support the military community and with President Biden on the Cancer Moonshot initiative, with the mission to accelerate the rate of progress against cancer.

Susan: Can you tell us more about your perspective on the Cancer Moonshot initiative?

Chris: To me, Cancer Moonshot is about mindset: there’s the huge amount of progress we can make in working together and maximizing what we already know while innovating so that we can move faster. We need to constantly be asking ourselves if we’re doing everything that we can to move cancer care forward.

Devon: What advice can you give the different people working in cancer care, from providers to life sciences, about how to break down silos and better work together to transform the fight against cancer?

Chris: The White Ribbon Project has been an amazing team-building project. The messaging around lung cancer has historically been focused on risk reduction, which has created a stigma around lung cancer diagnoses. Through The White Ribbon Project, we’ve been using the symbol of the white ribbon to start conversations about lung cancer that include early detection, treatment, research and survivorship.

The ribbon is a symbol of unity and the process of giving a ribbon to someone acknowledges that we are a team in shaping a new future for those impacted by lung cancer. To share this in terms of a football analogy – you can’t have a team full of quarterbacks, as you’d never win that way. We need to have different people playing different roles, while appreciating that we are all connected and moving towards one goal: moving cancer care forward.