Recapping a Wonderful Tribute to Dr. Vera Price, CARF’s Founder and Visionary

It was a night to remember. On Tuesday, April 16, family, friends, colleagues and patients gathered at the Argonaut Hotel in San Francisco to honor CARF and NAAF’s founder and visionary, Dr. Vera Price. The event was quite remarkable, but then again, no one expected less as Dr. Price is truly quite remarkable herself. Not only is Dr. Price a legend in the field of hair loss, treatments, and research, she is also a loving mother, grandmother, mentor and friend to so many. This was clearly evidenced by the outpouring of love, respect and gratitude from all those in attendance.

The evening began with a casual reception outside in the hotel’s courtyard. The sun was shining and there was a comfortable breeze flowing through the archway. Being a weeknight, guests began arriving from work or outlying areas to Fisherman’s Wharf. Hugs, smiles, and introductions were plentiful as everyone enjoyed a few hors d’oeuvres and cocktails. Just as it began to get cooler and the sun was setting, guests came inside to enjoy a wonderful meal together while watching a slideshow of Dr. Price throughout her life and career. The room was full with guests from CARF, NAAF, UCSF, colleagues, former patients, lifelong friends and, of course, her proud family. Dr. Price was surrounded by her son, daughter, son-in-law, three of her five grandchildren, cousin, and companion as the evening tributes began.

Rita Wanser, CARF’s President, welcomed everyone and introduced the first speaker, Dr. Mary Williams.  Dr. Williams spoke about her and Vera’s personal friendship over their careers, and lovingly shared how impressed she was at one of Vera’s famous dinner parties years ago, when Vera’s barely-teenage children served as the most well-behaved and gracious hosts. This was quite a feat and something to take notice. Dr. Williams was followed by Vicki Kalabokes, the former executive director of NAAF, who worked side-by-side with Vera to start the organization 27 years ago. Vicki joked about how she would receive phone calls from Vera in the wee hours of the morning, when she should be sleeping, about new ideas and things to do for NAAF. This was just an example of how passionate and driven Vera was to build NAAF and help hair loss patients. Dr. Ilona Frieden, Vera’s colleague from the early days at Kaiser Permanente, spoke next. Dr. Frieden recalled how, at the time of her residency, there were so few women dermatologists in the field and let alone ones who were also raising a family. She saw Vera doing this which made a significant impact on her. Dr. Bruce Wintroub, chair of UCSF’s Dermatology Department, came to the podium next.  Dr. Wintroub recalled how he met Vera while she was working at Kaiser, and how he knew right away that she was a superstar.  He recruited her to join UCSF’s Dermatology Department and never looked back. She has been the foundation of this illustrious department and a pivotal factor in growing it to what it is today.

The next three speakers all credited Vera for so much in their lives, but most importantly, for shaping and guiding their careers in dermatology. First, Dr. Paradi Mirmirani shared how serendipitous it was to meet Vera when they were both on a rotation together caring for a very ill patient. Vera had a knack for making personal connections with patients and Dr. Mirmirani saw this firsthand during this rotation. It obviously stuck and they’ve been an extraordinary duo in hair disorders ever since.  Dr. Ingrid Roseborough shared how she was new to dermatology when she accepted a fellowship at UCSF, but it turned into the greatest experience in her career.

She joked how she still struggles when referring to her as Vera and not saying “Dr. Price,” and recognized Vera as her most treasured mentor. Next up was Dr. Jenny Fu, who was not only professionally mentored by Dr. Price, but who is also personally affected with alopecia areata. Dr. Fu completely lost her hair at age 17 and a junior in high school.  Years later while in medical school and thinking about a career in obstetrics and gynecology, she spent a summer working in Vera’s small lab and she was hooked. She commented how Vera has a way about her that just invites and inspires you, and she is forever grateful for her mentorship.

Lisa Price, Vera’s daughter and an accomplished physician herself, spoke next. Lisa’s talk was wonderfully heartwarming as she spoke of her fondest memories of watching her mom build her career, care for patients, start two patient organizations, and become the world’s leading expert in hair disorders, all while being an awesome mother to her and her brother, Evan. It was evident how much of Vera’s grace and personality was passed on to her daughter as she spoke.

Rita Wanser took the podium to reminisce about the beginnings of forming CARF and some of the memorable experiences she and Vera endured during their early years together. Rita shared that through it all, including the ups and downs, Vera never wavered from her commitment and desire to make a difference in patient’s lives. Her dedication and drive kept things moving along and inspired everyone around her. CARF would not exist today if it wasn’t for Vera Price. There were many who wanted to show their support and love to Vera but could not attend the dinner. These messages were captured in a keepsake tribute book, which Rita presented to Vera with heartfelt gratitude.

When Vera approached the podium, her immediate comment was that no speech from her would be adequate enough to all the things she has heard tonight.  She was sincerely humbled and honored by this evening, and grateful to all those who paved the way for her to achieve her notoriety in hair disorders. Vera also commented that receiving this recognition from her peers has made it even more meaningful. She continued to talk briefly about the evolution of her career and what it has meant to her. When her speech concluded, the entire room was on their feet clapping in admiration.

As the evening concluded, there were lots of photos being taken, many farewells, and you could feel the warmth among the guests. And true to her form, Vera was ever so gracious, and lovely, and made sure to personally acknowledge and thank everyone who came.

Early the next morning, quite a few of the dinner guests gathered once again at a very special Grand Rounds lecture at UCSF. Dr. George Cotsarelis was the featured keynote speaker and the auditorium was packed, with many sitting along the walls or standing in the back. After the lecture, NAAF presented a short video highlighting Vera’s work and lasting impact on NAAF and helping patients with hair loss. The Grand Rounds ended as Dr. Fu recapped Vera’s extraordinary role in the field of hair disorders and thanked her on behalf of all those whose lives she touched.

The event raised $35,000 and all proceeds will be received by CARF and NAAF, the two patient organizations founded, nurtured and loved by Dr. Vera Price.