Rebecca Hammon grew up in Los Alamos watching her dad, Duncan Hammon, run marathons. As a bored kid, she swore she’d never be a runner. That changed in the summer of 2012 when Hammon took up running as a way to get some exercise. Now she’s slated to run the Boston Marathon April 21 as part of Team Eye and Ear. This will be her first marathon.
Hammon is a resident at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital that trains future medical leaders in ophthalmology and otolaryngology, through residency as well as clinical and research fellowships.
Massachusetts Eye and Ear clinicians and scientists are driven by a mission to find cures for blindness, deafness and diseases of the head and neck. Now united with Schepens Eye Research Institute, Mass. Eye and Ear is the world’s largest vision and hearing research center, developing new treatments and cures through discovery and innovation.
“Team Eye and Ear is made up of physicians, nurses, patients, and friends and families of patients of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. This year, we have 100 members and our goal is to raise $750,000 total,” Hammon said.
Every dollar raised makes it possible for Mass. Eye and Ear to excel in clinical care, research and medical education, she said.
“I am thrilled about my chance to run the 2014 Boston Marathon as a member of Team Eye and Ear, and I have chosen to dedicate my fundraising specifically to head and neck cancer research,” Hammon said. “In June, I will finish up two years of research with Dr. Jim Rocco, one of the MEEI head and neck cancer surgeons, and an NIH-funded cancer biologist at the Mass General Cancer Center.
“My first big race was a half marathon in Vermont in Sept 2013, and my parents made a trip out here for it. My dad ran it along with me and my husband,” she said. “A few months before last year’s marathon, I thought that it would be a really great goal to run the Boston Marathon as part of Team Eye and Ear. It was too late to train for the 2013 race, so I set my sights on 2014. Then the bombings happened, and I got to witness the resilience of the human spirit as strangers rushed to help each other and a city tracked down the people who had threatened it. I will never forget that day, and the week that followed, and I just knew I had to run the marathon.”
Hammon graduated from Los Alamos High School in 2001. She was a Presidential Scholar and a two-time state champion in doubles tennis in 2000 and 2001.
“Bruce Cottrell was my tennis coach and is horrified that I’ve gone over to the ‘dark side’ with running,” Hammon said. In high school, I spent a lot of time telling everyone that I would never run!”
Hammon graduated from Stanford in 2005 with a BA in Human Biology. She came back to Los Alamos and worked as a post-bac in the Biosciences Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory with Dr. Steve Graves. She also worked with Bruce Cottrell as the assistant coach for the high school girls’ tennis team. Then came medical school at UCLA from 2006 to 2010.
“I picked ENT (ear, nose and throat) as a specialty after my first day on my ENT rotation as a third year medical student,” Hammon said. “I met the team in the operating room where they were removing a jaw cancer from a patient and reconstructing his jaw with tissue from his leg. I knew that this was what I had to do!”
Hammon plans to become a head and neck cancer surgeon.
“After my residency finishes, maybe in 2017, I will do one additional year of training as a head and neck fellow, and then finally get a real job. I would love to come back to New Mexico to start my practice!” she said. “My parents still live in Los Alamos and I visit as often as I can both to see them and also to get my fill of breakfast burritos from Viola’s!”
Hammon is gearing up for the 26.2 mile Boston Marathon, now only nine days away on April 21.
“I’m getting that combination of nervousness and excitement that I used to get before my big tennis matches, but I know that I’ve trained the best that I could,” Hammon said. “Being a member of Team Eye and Ear has provided me with a lot of support along the way, as well. We run together on Saturdays for our long training runs, anywhere from 10 to 20 miles, and we meet every month with our team coach to discuss aspects of the marathon and questions about the training.”
To contribute to Hammon’s fundraising efforts to benefit head and neck cancer research, go to her website at http://www.crowdrise.com/teameyeandear/fundraiser/rebeccahammon. People can donate by check, made out to “Foundation of Mass Eye and Ear, Inc.” with “Rebecca Hammon” in the memo line, and send it to: Kristina Sym, Development Office, Mass. Eye and Ear, 243 Charles St., Boston, MA 02144.