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Tom Williams and Xing Zhu on "Face Connecticut," June 5, 2011

James Alex on "Mornings with Ray Dunaway" on WTIC NewsTalk 1080, June 17, 2011

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Health Center Today, June 14, 2011

First-years Preparing to Cycle Cross Country to Fight Leukemia

By Chris DeFrancesco

Photo of James Alex, Xing Zhu, Greg Hebert and Tom Williams

From left: James Alex, Xing Zhu, Greg Hebert and Tom Williams make up the 2011 Coast to Coast for a Cure team.

Photo courtesy of Lea's Foundation for
Leukemia Research

They’ll land in San Francisco, assemble their bicycles, and set out on a 4,000-mile journey back home.

First-year medical students James Alex, Greg Hebert and Tom Williams, along with first-year dental student Xing Zhu, make up the 2011 Coast to Coast for a Cure team. The cross-country bike trek to raise money for leukemia research has become a tradition for first-year students at the UConn Health Center.

The Hartford nonprofit Lea’s Foundation for Leukemia Research is a philanthropic partner of the Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center, where the Lea’s Foundation Center for Hematologic Disorders was dedicated in 2007.

“There are thousands of people afflicted with blood-based diseases every year, especially cancers of the blood,” Alex says. “This money will be going back into the system to help find cures and help these people live more fulfilling lives.”

The first Coast to Coast for a Cure was in 2006. The annual rides have raised more than $100,000 since then.

“In health professions, first and foremost, the primary goal is to help people,” says Zhu, who will be the first dental student to make the trek. “Right now, as first-year students, we’re limited on what we can do to help. I thought that helping raise money for leukemia research is one way to contribute to the community.”

The riders leave for San Francisco Saturday, June 18. They already started a blog and will be updating it when they can.

“I had a friend growing up with cancer, so it touched a nerve with me there,” Williams says. “Plus I love being outdoors, I love adventure, and this fit perfectly with that.”

Anyone interested in supporting Coast to Coast for a Cure before, during or after the ride can do so through

“This is a great opportunity for me because it allows me to do something I love and at the same time help Lea’s Foundation and get the word out about leukemia research,” Hebert says.