On the Road and at Home with Medical Student Education

Kevin O'Keefe at DuluthThe tenth annual sarcoma medical school lecture sponsored by RIS expanded its reach for the first time to the University of Minnesota Medical School in Duluth on April 13th and at the U of M Twin Cities Campus on April 22. The programs were organized by Sarcoma Scholars Amber Retzlaff, Catherine Holton and Phillip Thomas. The programs were similar in format.

Dr. Christian Ogilvie, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery, spoke to the students about early diagnosis and treatment of sarcoma cancers. He gave an overview of how to diagnose and treat many different types of sarcomas including metastatic bone tumors, Ewing’s Sarcoma and Osteosarcoma. He said that for many sarcoma cancers getting an MRI is very helpful before having surgery as it will show the size and the location of the tumors helping surgeons to remove all the cancer. He also encouraged the students to familiarize themselves with sarcoma because “You can’t treat what you don’t know.”

At the Twin Cities lecture Jason and Courtney Clemens told the story of their father and underscored the very real problem of a late of delayed diagnosis.


Their father, Bill Clemens, had a history of knee problems. In 2009 Clemens wanted knee replacement surgery after taking many pain medications. The surgeon removed a tumor from Clemens’ knee prior to getting the results back from the biopsy. Nine days later the results from the biopsy came back and Clemens’ was diagnosed with Synovial Sarcoma. In the meantime the sarcoma metastasized to his lungs and he endured four rounds of chemotherapy. In 2009 after his tumor shrunk his leg was amputated to stop the spread of cancer. But it was too late. By that time the cancer had spread all over. On November 23 he was admitted to the hospital and by November 25th he passed away at the young age of 58.

Courtney Clemens gave helpful takeaway notes from her father’s experiences that can be applied to all health care providers and patients alike:

  • Listen carefully to patients’ symptoms
  • Get a second opinion
  • Have a biopsy with tumors over 5 centimeters

Next to speak was sarcoma survivor and University of Minnesota pre-med student, Natalie Wolf. Wolf first noticed the lump on her side when she was a senior in high school. The first doctor she visited told her not to worry - it was probably just a cyst. Unfortunately over the summer the lump grew to be the size of a golf ball. Wolf decided to have the cyst removed. Once again she was told that it was probably benign. The cyst was sent to pathology just to make sure. The day before beginning her first day as a freshman at the U of M Natalie received a message to call her doctor back. The doctor informed her that she had cancer. Wolf moved into the dorms at the U of M the following week and soon after was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma.


She was forced to leave college to begin chemotherapy. She then endured 14 rounds of chemotherapy and surgeries and spent 74 days in the hospital. After completing her cancer treatments Wolf returned to college at the U of M determined to complete her degree. Wolf has been in remission from Sarcoma since 2011 and is currently researching Osteosarcoma with University of Minnesota researcher, Dr. David Largaespada. She views herself as lucky because her sarcoma cancer was caught early and properly treated.

Duluth Med StudentsAt the Duluth lecture Kevin O’Keefe told of his long journey to the correct Synovial Sarcoma diagnosis. He spoke of the Doctors that missed his diagnosis and of the doctors who found the correct diagnosis. A thirteen year survivor he has had to fight sarcoma twice but is doing well and volunteering much of his time to the fight against sarcoma including chairing this year’s “Party in the Park”.

Sue Wyckoff spoke about Karen’s misdiagnosis and unsuccessful fight against sarcoma.

We think these lectures have helped to spread sarcoma awareness among medical students. A special thank you to Dr. Ogilvie for being willing to help us turn this annual medical student lecture into a lifesaving road show.

To find out more about sarcoma patient support, education and research visit the Red Flags of Sarcoma Cancer.

Our thanks to Erin and Jason Clemens for providing the videos of these great presentations.