Sally Millett Honors Son With Gift to Head and Neck Cancer Research

When a rare form of cancer took Sally Millett’s son, Doug, at the age of 49, she wanted to do something special to honor his life.

“He was larger than life,” Sally says.

A successful hedge-fund portfolio manager, Doug was diagnosed in 2012 with adenoid cystic carcinoma, an orphan cancer that most commonly first appears in a person’s salivary glands. By the time doctors diagnosed Doug’s cancer, it had spread to other parts of his body. He died a mere 15 months later.

Doug became famous among Wall Street brokers for betting against Enron in the early 2000s and by all accounts, was the kind of man people remember.

After he died, Sally wanted to ensure his legacy would have a long and powerful impact. She set up a fund in Doug’s memory that invests in early scientific research into cures and drug development for head and neck cancers. The OSUCCC – James is known for breakthrough discoveries, but those discoveries take time, people and money.

Sally Millett, who retired from an academic medical center in Georgia, knows that research funding is challenging. The National Institutes of Health generally funds only research that is well underway, with promising early results and well-documented successes.

Sally’s family has strong ties to higher education and to Ohio: Her former husband, Allan R. Millett, is a professor emeritus at Ohio State. His father, John D. Millett, was the 16th president of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, which is also the alma mater of her son Mike, Doug’s brother.

The Milletts raised Doug and his brother, Mike, in Upper Arlington, where Doug was a standout linebacker for the Upper Arlington High School football team. Doug went on to play college football at Yale. A memorial plaque stands in his honor on the Upper Arlington High School campus.

“Columbus was very special to Doug,” Sally says. “And I wanted to honor him in Columbus.”

The Douglas Tyler Millett Endowed Fund for Research in Head and Neck Cancer supports a postdoctoral or medical fellow of The Ohio State University College of Medicine in his or her research of preventing, diagnosing and treating head, neck and throat cancers.

At the OSUCCC – James, early research has led to promising treatments for head and neck cancer caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), immunotherapy treatments for a variety of cancers and early drugs to fight blood cancers. The Millett Endowed Fund will help advance that type of work for head and neck cancer patients thanks to Sally’s philanthropic gift.

“In order for young scientists to complete their important work, they need funding that often is not otherwise available to them,” Sally says. “I think Doug would be proud of the work happening now in his name.”

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