Patient Pioneer: Ryan Cohlhepp

Feb 09, 2016

Last month, Ryan Cohlhepp, Vice President of U.S. Marketing at Takeda Oncology went far above and beyond his job description. After working at Takeda and Millennium for nearly a decade, Ryan was so inspired by the patients he’s worked with that he resolved to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to support the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF).

This wasn’t the first time Ryan has supported the MMRF. He previously ran the New York City half marathon where he raised $10,000 for the Foundation. When the opportunity to climb Kilimanjaro was presented to him, he was all in: 

“It immediately gave me goosebumps, the thought of everyone on the climb having some connection to Myeloma, including four patients. If they’re looking for support, if they’re looking for climbers…I’m in!”

Ryan’s passion to support patients was ignited years ago at a Takeda event where former NFL linebacker and multiple myeloma patient Elijah Alexander addressed the staff. Ryan said that to this day he vividly remembers these powerful words from Alexander:

“You’re all my team, I’m drafting you all. I don’t want my kids to grow up without a father and I don’t want my wife to be a widow.” 

21 days after he spoke, Elijah Alexander passed away. Over the years Ryan has met more than 100 patients and every story motivates him and reminds him of the important role that the life sciences industry has to play in developing treatments and cures.

Cohlhepp, a former pharmacist, remarked that people think of coming into the pharmaceutical industry as the “dark side”, but he doesn’t see it that way. As a former clinician, Ryan said that he was able to help hundreds of patients, but after 16 years of working in the industry, he has impacted thousands.

Ryan and his team (Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma) certainly made a significant impact on the MMRF – their team raised $236,630 for the Foundation. As for the experience, Ryan said it was unparalleled:

“The trip was amazing and had such a profound impact on me personally and the entire team. Climbing Kilimanjaro takes mental and physical determination, and reaching the top gave all of us a great sense of pride and achievement. It was quite humbling to stand at the top of the mountain with this group of myeloma patients, caregivers, and family; knowing that as difficult as our climb was, it is nothing compared to the perseverance cancer patients exude each day in their battle against this horrible disease.” 

Cohlhepp and Takeda will continue to work with the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation in the race to find treatments and cures because as Ryan so aptly stated:

“Beyond the achievement of reaching the summit, we won’t have cured Myeloma and at the end of the day that’s what this is all about.”

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