Bennet Omalu, portrayed in ‘Concussion’ film, next Significant Speaker

April 4, 2016

Hannah Harvey
hharvey@uccs.edu

Bennet Omalu, challenger of the NFL, is coming to UCCS.

As part of the Significant Speaker series, forensic pathologist and renowned physician Omalu will speak in Gallogly Events Center on April 19 at 7 p.m.

Tickets are on sale in University Center for $5 for UCCS students, faculty and staff. Housing students with a 3.2 GPA or better will also have the opportunity to have dinner with Omalu before the event begins.

The renowned physician’s topic is “Don’t Break the Rules, change the game: How Bennet Omalu single-handedly changed American football, professional sports and how a person can make small steps to spark a major change.”

Omalu discovered Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a degenerative disease of the brain, in late NFL player Mike Webster in 2002.

He was the first physician to publish studies of the disease, which typically impacts athletes who have suffered blows to the head and multiple concussions.

His studies presented controversy for the NFL, as he found evidence of the disease in eight more football players who had died as a result of traumatic head injury and in veterans that had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

His work with the disease inspired the 2015 film “Concussion,” where Omalu is portrayed by Will Smith.

Most can relate to Omalu’s topic because of its broad-ranging applications.

“He is profound in his research, renown in his discovery and can provide lessons on how we all can overcome any challenge we may face,” said assistant director of Student Activities Stephen Cucchiara.

The event may be interesting for those who are planning on continuing into pre-health careers, but Omalu’s willingness to challenge the NFL can be relevant to all students.

“The NFL is one of the country’s most powerful enterprises,” added Cucchiara. “During a certain time of the year, they own a day of the week and this man challenged them on their response to one of the most controversial topics that surround professional sports.”

The Significant Speakers series was founded in 2011 and has occurred every year since, according to Cucchiara.

“Our goal is to find speakers that meet the following criteria – present on a relatable topic to a college community, have widespread interest from students and the topic is one of global discussion,” said Cucchiara.

Past speakers have included LeVar Burton, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye. The only aspect of the series that differs from year to year is the speaker, but the process for choosing the individual stays the same.

A student committee is selected by staff members to choose the speaker for the event. The 10-12 student committee discusses options over the summer and conducts research to make a list of who they want to speak.

A vote is put out to the student body after staff review the list.

The event is projected to sell out, so students are encouraged to buy tickets now. Usually, 500 to 1,000 people attend the event.

Students should come see Omalu, because he made great strides in obstacles that he faced, according to Cucchiara.

“Everyone can learn something from the work he did, regardless of if we are in health-related fields or not,” he said.

The Scribe attempted to reach Omalu for an interview, but he was not available by time of print due to his traveling schedule.