As so many of us Bills fans rejoice in Ralph Wilson Jr.'s overdue selection for the National Football League Hall of Fame, a "special team" of Wilson's -- cancer patients and scientists across our community and around the country -- have even more reason to share in the celebration.
It's a little-known fact that just as he quietly and humbly accepted his recent kudos, Wilson has selflessly been investing in some of the country's most innovative medical research since he founded the Ralph Wilson Medical Research Foundation in 1999.
The foundation, named in honor of his late father, underwrites research at a group of elite medical research institutions across the country, including Roswell Park Cancer Institute. And while the philanthropy attracts little attention -- it garnered some headlines for its impact on life-saving treatments used for the Bills' Kevin Everett in 2007 -- its results offer evidence of Wilson's leadership far beyond the stadium lights.
I am privileged to sit on the foundation's scientific advisory committee, and have watched Wilson's investments make a daily mark on trailblazing science -- the kind of out-of-the-box ideas that will someday have a major impact on improving and extending nearly all of our lives.
Here at Roswell Park, we're seeing direct results from Wilson's forward-thinking ways through a multitude of investigations: from research of new ideas to prevent genetic changes that turn healthy cells cancerous, to studying cancer susceptibility genes, to how artificially created stem cells might protect patients from the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy. Like his early investment in the American Football League and the Bills, he remains true to his vision of venturing into often uncharted waters for a better end result, just as he's remained true to Buffalo.
That very notion is what drives Wilson in his new role as scientific quarterback. Wilson has never been a man to go with the pack. And we are all better off for it. In his new role, he thrives on giving opportunities to players whose ideas show incredible promise, but who just need a chance on the field to prove it to others. Play by play, game by game, he is slowly but surely compiling a winning track record of pilot medical studies that later go on to receive long-term support from traditionally more conservative funders like the National Institutes of Health.
What impresses me most, however, is Wilson's personal interest and involvement in everything he does. In the med-sci realm, he is with us every step of the way, participating in discussions of why new avenues are needed, and what might be the best way to get from point A to point Z. His natural curiosity and eagerness to play an active role in winning this battle make him stand out among wise investors, and these same qualities have made him a unique and unforgettable personality in the history of the NFL.
This visionary nonagenarian behind our favorite football team indeed has a much larger goal in mind for all of us, and we are each going to be the beneficiary through new and better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat the diseases that far too often devastate our lives.
So on behalf of all my fellow Bills fans, congratulations, Mr. Wilson, on your tremendous Hall-of-Fame honor. Thank you not only for the joy you have brought to our lives each weekend of the football season, but for the hope you continue to offer for victories well beyond the gridiron.