Chrysler Group Fights Cancer
How the automaker rallied nearly 350 employees in Detroit to make a long-term commitment to the fight against cancer.
Michael Jessamy is a big, strong, fit guy who has never smoked and rarely drank. So imagine his shock when the dull ache in his neck – which doctors initially blamed on allergies – turned out to be stage 4 throat cancer. It just came out of nowhere.
“No one could tell me the cause,” the Chrysler Group executive recalls.
Regardless, surgery, radiation and chemo succeeded in eradicating the cancer, and today, at age 56, Michael has just marked his seven-year cancer-free birthday. He feels great. In fact, he has focused his abundant energy on making Chrysler Group one of the country’s leading examples of helping the American Cancer Society finish the fight against cancer.
Michael, his staff, employee volunteers, his colleagues from the UAW, and upper management recently organized a mass enrollment of Chrysler Group colleagues, friends and family members in the American Cancer Society Cancer Prevention Study-3 (CPS-3). CPS-3 is a long-term study designed to uncover factors – lifestyle, environmental and genetic – that cause or prevent cancer.
Chrysler Group’s CPS-3 initiative started with an impassioned proposal from Marie Adam, Chrysler Group’s manager of medical operations, who saw the CPS-3 enrollment as a way for her company to help the Society make this cancer’s last century. Not surprisingly, the idea resonated with Michael, who is director of employee relations and medical operations. His supervisors were equally enthusiastic.
How They Did It
To spread the word about CPS-3, a volunteer team used intranet and town hall messaging, hung promotional banners, and staffed information tables in key locations around the Chrysler Group World Headquarters building. They promoted the two planned enrollment events for weeks.
Although awareness about enrollment and the cancer study spread, more employees needed to hear the message. Michael felt a need to help any way he could, even if it meant getting personal. So he emailed the entire staff at the Auburn Hills complex.
“You have cancer’ are some of the most frightening words I have ever heard,” he wrote. “Although I have won my personal battle against cancer, I still need your help.” The letter triggered a flood of prospective enrollees and personal, passionate notes about how the disease has directly affected their families and friends.
On the two CPS-3 enrollment days, an American Cancer Society team signed up 292 Chrysler Group employees at the headquarters, setting a record for single-day closed corporate enrollment. Another 56 participants, mostly employees’ friends and family, were enrolled at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum, bringing the total to 348 people. That doesn’t include more in plants around the country and the world who heard what was happening in Detroit and independently followed suit.
“Personally,” says Michael, “I feel really proud of all the volunteers have done. Although it’s not part of their job, they volunteered their time to organize, set up and participate with the signup and did so very, very cheerfully. And I am extremely grateful to those who enrolled. It means a lot.”
Anyone who didn’t sign up has another chance to do so. Michael, Marie and the rest of the volunteers are hoping word of mouth from CPS-3 enrollees will spur strong turnout for another Chrysler Group enrollment, scheduled for Thursday, October 31.
“At Chrysler Group, we have the mindset that not only do we want to sell cars, we want to give back to our community and employees,” says Michael. “So we take things like this quite personally. We do the best we can to help causes we believe in, and this is one we believe in. And on a personal note, CPS-3 may help people like me and my doctors answer the many mysterious questions we have around our experiences with cancer. It would be good to have more answers.”
Consider following Chrysler Group employees’ example and enrolling in the American Cancer Society CPS-3. For more information about CPS-3 and the selected enrollment locations, please visit www.cancer.org/cps3 or email CPS3@cancer.org or call toll-free 1-888-604-5888.