“All Roads Lead Back to Sibley”

December 19, 2023 by Sara Falligant | Photos by Tony Powell

Sibley’s Young Professionals Board raises funds and awareness to expand access to world-class cancer care in Washington, D.C.

As a child, native Washingtonian Julia Ghafouri’s family never had to call Sibley Memorial Hospital by name. “‘The hospital’ was always Sibley,” she remembers.

julia and bob ghafouri at the sibley young professional board's sibley soiree
YPB Chair Julia Ghafouri and her husband Bob smile at this year’s Sibley Soiree.

Ghafouri’s grandfather worked as a volunteer admissions assistant at Sibley, now a Johns Hopkins community hospital, after he retired in the 1980s. When her grandmother was diagnosed with cancer in the late ’80s, Sibley teams helped her manage the side effects of treatment and provided compassionate end-of-life-care. Twenty years later, her mother-in-law received cancer care from Bruce Kressel, the same doctor who treated her grandmother, now practicing at Sibley.

And when Ghafouri started her own family, Sibley doctors and nurses helped her welcome three children.

“In this community, all roads lead back to Sibley,” she says. “Growing up here, and then getting married and raising a family, I knew I wanted to get involved. I just wasn’t quite sure when.”

When an opportunity opened up to join the Sibley Memorial Hospital Foundation’s Young Professionals Board (YPB), Ghafouri was eager to serve. She has been a member the last nine years, most recently serving as the board’s chair. During that time, she’s worked with the group — whose members represent different industries from across D.C., Maryland, and Virginia — to leverage their personal and professional networks in support of their community hospital.

a group looks at art at the sibley young professionals board's sibley soiree
This year’s record-breaking Sibley Soiree was held at the National Portrait Gallery.

Each of the YPB’s 25  “talented, dedicated, thoughtful individuals” has a different connection to Sibley, Ghafouri says.

“The members really put the time and effort into having a productive board and doing what we can to help Sibley and its patients,” she adds. “It’s a remarkable group of people. I’ve been associated with other boards and committees, and I always compare them to the YPB. I have not found one yet like it.”

During the last 10 years, the YPB’s annual fundraising total has grown from $30,000 to $625,000 in 2023. Much of those funds are raised through events, including the Sibley Soiree, the YPB’s signature celebration. Held in October at the National Portrait Gallery, this year’s soiree welcomed more than 550 guests.

Money raised from the events and the YPB’s other fundraising efforts helps to support access to cancer care through Sibley’s partnership with the Unity Health Care clinics, which serve people in Wards 7 and 8. The wards are two of the most underserved in the D.C. area. The partnership provides Sibley-supported cancer care to those who are diagnosed at the clinics and Sibley nurse navigators working within the clinics. The funds also aid families in Sibley’s pediatric radiation oncology program.

a large group of people at the sibley young professional board's sibley soiree
More than 550 guests attended October’s Sibley Soiree.

Caring for a child with cancer impacts the entire family, explains Annie Williams, assistant director of development at the Sibley Memorial Hospital Foundation who works directly with the YPB. In many cases, parents may have to leave their jobs to stay with their child during treatment. The funds can be used to help with groceries, lodging, prescription co-pays, treatment, and more.

“The really neat thing about these funds is they are almost purely at the discretion for use by our nurse navigators,” Williams adds. “If they deem something as necessary, they can get it done because the soiree is so successful. The donors are happy because their money is going to really good causes, and the families are more supported.”

In addition to the soiree, the YPB also hosts an annual Guys Night and Ladies Luncheon each spring. These events support the hospital and bring together YPB supporters who enjoy hearing from Sibley physicians in a fun, intimate setting. And during the holiday season, the board leads a toy drive to bring cheer to pediatric patients at the Johns Hopkins Proton Therapy Center in Washington, D.C., and their siblings.

julia ghafouri stands on a stage with a microphone at the sibley young professional board's sibley soiree
The YPB hosts events throughout the year to support expanding access to cancer care in Washington, D.C.

Like Ghafouri, many of the board’s members have children of their own. The stories they’ve heard of the challenges of being a parent to a child with cancer resonate. And while research and equipment are important, the board decided to raise money to support patients who are “dealing with something we can’t even imagine.”

“We’re so fortunate that Sibley is in our backyard, and we are tapped into the entire Hopkins network,” she says adding Sibley is embracing advances in health care and technology. “It’s such an incredible resource for our city. We as a board want to do what we can to make sure that the broadest network of people has access to it.”

The YPB’s network of donors is proud to support expanding access to cancer care, but Williams says the board’s success also speaks to the caliber of its members.

“We are so appreciative of the YPB’s work and that they do it because of each of their personal connections to Sibley,” she says. “They do it because Sibley is their hospital.”

Make Your Gift

Interested in supporting equitable access to world-class cancer care in D.C.?

Topics: Friends of Johns Hopkins Medicine, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Sibley Memorial Hospital, Strengthening Partnerships