Harvard Researchers Grow (and Shave) Mustaches For a Cause

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Rear Admiral Benjamin Sands and his beard.

Some men grow mustaches as a display of masculinity. Others do it as a way to change their image or conform to urban style trends. But for the men of Harvard’s medical community, growing a mustache is about raising awareness and money for men’s health.

Movember” is an international effort that seeks to raise money for men’s health—particularly prostate and testicular cancer—through the sponsorship of teams all over the world who grow facial hair during the month of November.

This is the third year that a team from the Harvard community has participated, but this year’s efforts come with a twist: if the team can reach its fundraising goal, Meir J. Stampfer, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School, will shave his mustache.

According to Stampfer, this year marks the 40th anniversary of a mustache that is older than his marriage.

“Meir is a very famous man,” said Paul L. Nguyen, leader of the Harvard affiliates' Movember team and assistant professor of radiation oncology at Harvard Medical School. “He is one of the most cited men in medicine and everybody knows his mustache.”

“I will just do it if I can stimulate some interest in prostate cancer research even if it means shaving off my mustache, which is part of my identity,” said Stampfer.

As the rules of Movember stipulate that participants have to be clean-shaven at the beginning of November, Stampfer has refrained from taking part in the fundraiser in the past, choosing instead to remain a mustachioed “cheerleader” for the team. Stampfer has also been a leading author of prostate, colon, and breast cancer research.

“I’ve put my research into it; now I’m putting my upper lip into it!” said Stampfer.

“The whole concept of Movember is a different idea for cancer fundraising because it has a lighthearted step to it,” said Nguyen. With increased cutbacks to government funding, he said, it has become more difficult to get funding for continued cancer research, so fundraising efforts like these are particularly important.

As of late last week, the team had raised over $20,000 and, according to their Movember fundraising page, is currently in first place in the nation for fundraising. Team members are hoping to make it to their goal of $40,000 by October 30 in order for Stampfer to stick to his promise to shave his celebrated mustache. Stampfer joked that his kids considered having a counter-campaign against shaving his mustache, but said that they eventually conceded.

To contribute to the Harvard team or learn more, visit Team Bellissimo at their Movember team page.

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