Karishma Bhatt, a first year medical student at University of Illinois, Chicago campus, has resolved to shave herself bald March 21 to raise money for cancer research for children. The event will be held from 6 to 9 p.m., Saturday, March 21, at Hawkeye’s on Taylor Street, a popular hangout spot for UIC students.
“You heard me. I’m shaving my head for St. Baldrick’s Saturday, March 21, to support cancer research and to support everyone in my life who has had cancer,” Karishma told Desi Talk.
Students at UIC Chicago College of Medicine are shaving their heads for St. Baldrick’s, an organization that raises money for children’s cancer research. By shaving their heads, the students are not only raising money, but help normalize the experience of losing hair during cancer treatment, a process that is quite difficult for adults and children alike.
“We spend so much time and effort shaping and coloring and caring for our hair that it becomes one of the defining aspects of our personality and personal identity,” says Shikhar Shah, first-year medical student at UIC. “I’m shaving my head because I want those children who are suffering from cancer and losing their hair and sense of self to know that it’s not the end of the world that a bald head can be normal.”
Many participating students are shaving on behalf of loved ones who have suffered cancer. Yu-Hui Huang, one of the volunteers this year, says, “My motivation stems from having watched those close to me fight cancer with some wins and losses.” She adds, “I can’t wait to walk around bald and show children with cancer that they’re not alone.”
Bhatt, who is also a member of the planning committee, says, “I hope shaving my head will show young girls that losing hair, which is such a big part of our appearance and can be a major factor in a person’s self-esteem, is not something to be ashamed of.”
The students hope to draw UIC students, loved ones and community members to the event in support. Michael Wedoff, who is on this year’s planning committee, states, “No child deserves to have cancer, let alone lose their hair as a result of treatment. Events such as St. Baldrick’s aim to normalize baldness in a fun and exciting manner, all the while raising money for an all-important cause.”
Ian Winter, president of UIC Chicago Cancer Society, which is hosting the St. Baldrick’s event, notes, “Many people do not realize that pediatric cancers are an underfunded research area. Much of the money that goes into cancer research is for adult patients, who are much more numerous than pediatric patients. I am shaving my head to raise awareness of this issue, and to try to do my small part in raising money to help close the funding gap.”
Every 3 minutes a child is diagnosed with cancer. An estimated 15,780 children were diagnosed with cancer just this past year. Although their five-year survival rates have increased over the past 35 years, we are still only at an 80 percent five-year rate for children diagnosed before the age of 20. Charities such as St. Baldrick’s are dedicated to changing this, and UIC students are doing their part March 21.
$1780 have been raised, as this goes to press, toward the target of $5000.
For those who wish to contribute, Karishma’s donation page is
Her Facebook page is
Karishma is the daughter of well-known Indian community leader, Harish Bhatt, President of the Association of Indian Pharmacists in America.