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AutoNation Cure Bowl NASCAR Driver Patrick Staropoli Shares Why He “Drives Pink” for BCRF

By BCRF | December 12, 2016

As a racer and medical school student, Staropoli sees the power of research from all perspectives

When Patrick Staropoli is in the cockpit of his racecar, he’s confronted with major decisions. He must guide his vehicle at 200 miles per hour around major g-force turns, avoid other cars on the track while simultaneously maintaining his cool in a 130-degree cabin.

This ability to remain calm under pressure is a talent he uses off the track. At 27, he’s not your typical NASCAR driver. The South Florida native is a Harvard graduate who is in his final year of medical school at the University of Miami. 

“The skills underappreciated in racing are really useful in medicine,” he says.

Both professions require effective communication, precise movements and teamwork.

“I think the way you approach problems in racing is similar to how you approach a patient in medicine,” he says.

The same way NASCAR pit crews must identify and fix a problem with a car, medical teams must collaborate to effectively diagnose and treat individual patients.

 “Being in medical school has helped me become a better race car driver,” he adds.  

While racing and medicine appear to be at odds, Staropoli was introduced to both worlds at a young age. Both his grandfather and father raced. When they were off the track, both worked as auto mechanics.

“I grew up around the shop, learned to work on cars and everything from them. It’s what I was immersed in,” Staropoli says.

His first introduction to the world of science was a tragic one. In 2001, his father was in a bad racing accident. Once airlifted off the track, he was transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami – where coincidentally today Staropoli makes his rounds as a medical student at the University of Miami. 

“They basically saved his life,” he said. “It wasn’t at that point where I thought, ‘I need to be a doctor,’ but having something like that happen that early in your life, it sticks with you.”

Years later, Staropoli has now combined both these interests. Once an amateur racer, he now competes in NASCAR and is sponsored by AutoNation, the country’s largest automotive retailer where he helps promote one of the company’s title events: the AutoNation Cure Bowl. Now in its second year, the college bowl game is the only bowl game to raise funds for breast cancer research, raises funds to supportwith all support going to  BCRF.

“Last year we raised over $1 million through the AutoNation Cure Bowl. The work has been nothing short of phenomenal,” Staropoli says.

While Staropoli has a passion for science, he also shares a personal connection to the AutoNation’s “Drive Pink” cause initiative. Three of his cousins are breast cancer survivors. A close family friend is currently undergoing treatment.

His experience as a medical student and seeing the disease from a physician’s perspective has also given Staropoli deeper insight on the power of research.

“Every treatment, every protocol you’re following, ideally there’s a study out there that’s looked at itthat has validated it,” he says. 

This evidence-based approach is crucial to modern medicine – where the effectiveness of each treatment has been supported by scientific studies and research. 

“I think research has definitely gotten us closer to finding a cure for breast cancer,” he says. “It’s helped develop a lot of individualized cancer therapies that have been more useful than the broader approaches in the past.”

While Staropoli promotes the AutoNation Cure Bowl on the track, he also shares a campus with one of the researchers funded by the event, Dr. Joyce Slingerland.

“She’s looking at the interaction of breast cancer cells with fat cells and estrogen, and how that leads to inflammationturns on an inflammatory response. By blocking this, you could stop which could cause further growth of the cancer cells and prevent potential metastasis,” Staropoli says.

It’s these kind of research projects where Staropoli feels the impact of AutoNation’s “Drive Pink” movement which to date has raised and donated more than $8 million to cancer-related charities. . 

“Just seeing some of the amazing research come out of the AutoNation Cure Bowl, I think we’re coming closer to figuring out what we can do to stop breast cancer, and I am just lucky to be a small part of it.” Staropoli says.