2001 RELL SUNN AWARDEE
Dr. Mark Renneker is one of surfing’s greatest ambassadors. Known fondly by watermen worldwide as “Doc,” Mark is a respected big-wave hunter from Northern California, one of a select group that tapped the boundless energy at Mavericks when few even knew about – let alone challenged – its bone-chilling (and bone-crunching) four-story faces in Half Moon Bay.
While Doc is respected for his pursuit of huge waves, he is most admired for his selfless pursuit of helping others. For more than a quarter-century his extraordinary efforts have enhanced the care of underserved populations and improved cancer education, care and treatment. This work eventually brought him together with Rell Sunn herself.
In 1974, Mark founded “Biology of Cancer” courses at four California universities (including UC San Diego) as his thesis project at UC Santa Cruz. These courses were designed to help non-science major undergraduates understand the biological, clinical, and psychosocial aspects of cancer. The courses proved popular and soon expanded to universities nationwide, and included a textbook, Understanding Cancer, which Mark authored. Some universities still offer these courses today.
But that is just where Doc’s contributions begin. While attending medical school at UC San Francisco in the late ’70s, he continued his cancer education work, initiating an “Introduction to Cancer Medicine” course for medical, nursing, and pharmacy students at UC San Francisco. Later he secured a grant from the National Cancer Institute to develop a cancer prevention curriculum for UCSF and UCLA students.
He later received a faculty appointment at UCSF’s School of Medicine as an assistant clinical professor in the department of Family and Community Medicine. And his work since has reflected community medicine at the highest level.
While serving as an attending physician at the Cancer Education and Prevention Center at Summit Hospital in Oakland, California, Doc was principal investigator for a three-year, $600,000 national American Cancer Society demonstration project that provided cancer education and screening services to low-income patients at the West Oakland Health Center. He also spent 13 years as an attending physician at the South of Market Health Center, an inner-city clinic in San Francisco.
Other contributions include 24 years of volunteer service with the American Cancer Society, serving on numerous committees, councils, task forces, and divisions. He has organized more than 20 conferences on cancer and preventive medicine, has lectured or presented at more than 100 colleges and universities, and has served as an edito-rial board member of many scholarly journals, including
The Journal of Cancer Education from 1995 to the present.
Mark is also founder of the Surfer’s Medical Association, which has sought to improve health conditions of often-poor populations near surf destinations around the world. An outgrowth of its work is an ongoing community health project in the Fijian village of Nabila, in which Association efforts led the population to stop smoking cigarettes in 1990. Their cessation has lasted for more than a decade, and a scientific paper eventually won international awards and was featured on ABC’s “World News Tonight” in 1999.
For more than a decade Doc’s work has focused on comprehensive, case-specific research and advocacy for patients (and their families) facing seemingly unsolvable illnesses. Most often the disease is cancer. In this pursuit he came to work with Rell Sunn and her husband, Dave Parmenter.
“Over the last months of Rell’s life, working primarily with Dave and Keith Block, another physician-surfer from Evanston, Illinois, we pursued every imaginable therapy to help her, ranging from mainstream and experimental therapies to alternative and esoteric treatments, and finally to optimizing home hospice care,” Doc said. “It was an honor to have worked with Rell Sunn.”
It is an equal honor for this year’s UCSD Cancer Center Luau & Longboard Invitational to have Doc Renneker here to receive the Rell Sunn “Queen of Makaha” Award.
Mahalo Mark!Thank you to our 2008-2013 Luau & Longboard Invitational’s title sponsor, Pfizer La Jolla.