UCSF Prostate Cancer Survivor Grows a Beard for a Good Cause

By Patricia Yollin | September 1, 2011

For the first time in his life, 50-year-old Art Wagner is growing a beard. He wants people to ask why.

He will tell them that he is a survivor of prostate cancer, the second-leading cause of cancer death in men. He will tell them that he has started Septembeard, a charitable organization dedicated to raising money for research on prevention, better treatments and a cure.

SeptembeardWagner is hoping men will grow facial hair during September, National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and that people will sponsor the hair growth by donating to his brand-new nonprofit, which officially opens today (Sept. 1.) The money goes directly to one of six leading research institutions on prostate cancer: UCSF, Johns Hopkins, Memorial Sloan-Kettering, the Mayo Clinic, MD Anderson and Northwestern University.

Art Wagner

“I’m starting my beard on Sept. 1,” said Wagner, who works in advertising sales and is pursuing a master’s degree in counseling at St. Mary’s College in Moraga. “I’m a little terrified of what I’ll look like after a month. It’s not something I ever wanted to do. People don’t have to grow full beards. Even if it’s a little stubble or a soul patch or a goatee, that’s fine.”

The approach is simple. Men can get involved as individuals or teams by going to septembeard.org and setting up a personalized profile page they can share with people and ask for donations to the institution of their choice. “Leaderbeards” show how teams are doing against competitors around the country.

“Art obviously brings a wealth of experience to this project, but his most important assets are his passion, innovation and commitment,” said Peter Carroll, MD, MPH, professor and chair of urology and associate dean of the UCSF School of Medicine. “He is truly focused on improving the quality of life for those at risk of prostate cancer, as well as those with the disease. The project is fun, capturing men’s attention -- not easy to do -- but also very impactful.”

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