After having been the first female general surgeon trained at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centerand finishing my training in 1976, then practicing the art of surgery for the last 30 years as a board certified general surgeon, I promised to give back for that privilege and 6 years ago I opened a family practice clinic in Brighton, Michigan for all comers where I promise every day to listen well, look my patients in the eye and lift them up from their illnesses with good medical care, love, and hope for a healthier life, charging just a small fee for my services. It is a wonderful life and it has been my joy!! I take no medical insurance and thus have only one employee who manages the appointments. The patients with good medical insurance love the clinic as they can use their insurance for x-rays, lab work, etc but not for office visits which are markedly less expensive than in offices where the physicians take insurance.
My promise to love all is my life's passion, child education. Through athletics, we all have an amazing outlet to teach kids discipline, teamwork, humility and ambition. I've spent the last 5 years teaching children computer programming through robotics and noticed the best engagement when a child finds a subject they're passionate about. My latest class held a kid who went to the US Open with his family for the last 2 years. A birth abnormality left him unable to play the sport himself, but the chance that educational opportunities gave him to think creatively and build a game that included the sport he loved made him feel as much a part of tennis as the players he and his family loved to watch. These opportunities are the Promise to Love All. Give children a chance through education and watch them exceed their limits and expectations by a mile. That not only helps that one child, but inspires many to follow.
My promise to my community was on behalf of the 35,000 stray animals in the five boroughs of New York City.
On my first day of volunteering at the shelter, I realized a majority of the dogs’ kennels had a few scrappy blankets and hardly any of them had toys. Some of these dogs are in kennel care for months recovering from a variety of behavioral and health problems. Some of the dogs once lived with families and one day were just too much for their owners to care for. One can only imagine the feeling of abandonment and fear when a pet is left for good by their family at a place as scary as an animal shelter. No matter the reason they end up in shelter care, all the dogs seem so sad and anxious. Displaced and living in such minimal conditions at no fault of their own. Every train ride home I thought about ways I could do something to make the dogs more comfortable and ease their minds during such a scary, traumatic time.
Consequently, when recently watching my mother play in her tennis league match, I noticed a bucket of balls that my Mom informed me were flat and couldn’t be used to play with anymore. All of the sudden a light bulb went off in my head; any dog lover knows a dog loves a tennis ball. At once I began to round up the discarded balls to take them back to hand out to the deserving dogs at the shelter. After explaining to the rest of the girls on the court what I was doing, they started regularly bringing in flat balls from home and gathering them from friends who also played tennis and sending them to me for dogs. Although there is no substitute for a forever family, receiving a shiny, “new” tennis ball to chew-on and roll around their kennels seems to be a real treat for the soon-to-be pets and does make their time at the shelter seem slightly more comfortable.
Nancy McPherson may not own the most imposing forehand in tennis, but her heart-felt handshake is one of the most inspired gestures you may ever see on a tennis court. On the surface, pressing palms with your opponent — that traditional tennis acknowledgement that concludes every match — isn’t that unusual, but it isn’t the sort of human interaction McPherson ever takes for granted.
Several feet from the court where McPherson has just completed a doubles match her niece, Amanda, was seated in a chair, a cascade of light brown curls framing her face like a halo of hair, oblivious to the match just complete, while excitedly pointing out her primary interest: the smiling image of Dora the Explorer leaping from the pages of the pop-up book planted in front of her. The child looked eager to turn the page, but her body could not cooperate.
Amanda’s hands were wrapped in gauze bandages protecting the raw fingertips beneath the bandages and red blotches of blisters burst from the skin beneath her nose and above her forehead.
Amanda suffers from a form of Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB) — the skin disease which affects approximately two out of every 100,000 people in the United States. EB is a rare genetic disease characterized by the presence of extremely fragile skin and recurrent blisters, resulting from minor mechanical friction or trauma. Many people get blisters on their hands and feet from time to time following friction, friction that comes from the continued rubbing of skin against a hard object or surface. People with EB, however, get blisters much more easily and in much greater numbers. Severe EB wounds resemble serious burns — but EB injuries keep recurring and there is no cure for skin so sensitive that makes the simple act of a handshake, a hug or lacing up a pair of sneakers painful in the more severe cases of EB.
Though the mere act of holding a tennis racquet can be problematic for Amanda, her aunt is using tennis to combat the disease. In an effort to help her niece and raise funds and awareness for EB, Nancy organizes charity tournament and pro-ams with all proceeds benefitting Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa Research Association of America, Inc., DebRA, a voluntary, non-profit organization dedicated to finding a cure for Epidermolysis Bullosa.
“It’s just horrible, horrible disease,” McPherson says. “To see children so lively just starting out their lives suffering from it is so sad. It’s so rare many people aren’t aware of it. But the tennis community has really stepped up to help. Every time we organize one of these fund-raisers, you really do feel like you’re playing for something bigger and more important.”
In a sport where the net divides competitors, McPherson has seen the power in unity.
“On the surface, tennis is about hitting the ball over the night, but to see so many tennis players come together to raise money for EB research gives you an idea of the power we all have working together,” McPherson says. “You also appreciate every second you’re out on court healthy enough to play — and the handshake after the match.”