Behind many TEDx Talks are normally individuals who have a purpose far greater than self
and sometimes, they have an idea that captures the hearts and minds of people around the world.
Certainly, this is what happened with John Tarantino’s hit TEDxtalk, delivered at the TEDx Providence conference in May 2023.
Since it was posted on July 17, it has become one of the most-watched TEDx talks of the year. At the time of writing, it was about to hit 10 million views on YouTube.
John is regarded as a leading legal mind in the US, recognizedas one of the top attorneys in the country by Best Lawyers of America, Chambers USA, Benchmark, and Lawdragon.
However, his TEDx Talk titled “Redemption Stories” is a deeply personal tale of hope and our ability to overcome our obstacles,no matter what we have experienced. As John says:
“We are better than we give ourselves credit for, and if we can forgive ourselves, we can improve our lives and the lives of others. We are always stronger together.”
In his TEDx talk, John tells the story of his dear friend Ralph Papitto, who, in a single moment of anger and frustration, used a racial slur in the boardroom in 2007 which seemingly ruined his reputation overnight. Despite this, he proved his integrity and character through words, establishing educational schemes for inner-city students from communities of color and ultimately regained his reputation.
After Ralph passed, his wife Barbara established the PapittoOpportunity Connection (POC), a private family foundation in December 2020, which exists to transform the lives of underprivileged communities by investing in those who are committed to creating systemic change.
As Managing Trustee, John is integral to the POC foundation. But in the middle of this life-changing work, John experienced a personal tragedy that would change his life forever:
“My wife Pat, the love of my life, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer, which has a 0% survival rate. No matter how we tried to fight, there could be no happy ending for us. During this time, I saw up close and personal just how hard a cancer diagnosis and treatment are.”
Understanding the power of hope and positivity, even in the most challenging of times, John and Pat decided to go all in on making a difference for others. They sold their family home and, combined with the cash proceeds from Pat’s life insurance policies, they donated every penny to cancer research.
John has also established a foundation in Pat’s honor since her passing – The John and Pat Tarantino Charitable Foundation:
“My vision for the foundation is to honor my wife by helping every person affected by cancer. All patients deserve the same quality of care and a better quality of life, no matter their income, location, or prognosis.”
To this end, the foundation has established two separate funds.
The first is a fund that goes towards all cancer research. Regardless of prognosis cancer patients all face similar difficulties, and a major one is the financial burden of treatment. Donations to this fund will be split between research and helping patients who can’t afford their co-pays:
“Many people undergoing cancer treatment are unable to work. This fact, combined with the fact that many insurance policies do not fully cover anything beyond generic treatment options, leads to a lot of stress. We hope that this fund will help people focus on their health, rather than worrying about their payments.”
The second fund is specifically for research into pancreatic research. Recently, the foundation funded its first published peer-reviewed paper on advances in treatment options – but this is just the beginning.
Tying in with John’s work with the POC foundation, The Johnand Pat Tarantino Foundation and POC funded a first-of-its-kindprogram this past summer. A cohort of 22 high school students from marginalized communities, all of whom are dedicated topursuing a career in medicine, were given the opportunity of a lifetime to get experience working with experts in Oncology and Hematology.
Each student had an individual expert mentor and was able to channel their passion for medicine, research, and cancer treatments into hands-on experience in research labs, doing rounds with physicians, and attending educational conferences.
Alongside shaping the brightest young minds from communities of color, this program aims to have a profound impact on their wider communities too:
“We have major issues with a lack of cultural awareness as a society. The trust levels in certain communities, particularly towards medicine, are very low. If you have a doctor who looks like you, someone you can relate to, then we can take huge strides towards rebuilding that trust, and getting patients the help they need.”
John is also CEO of Iylon Precision Oncology LLC, an organization at the forefront of precision oncology. Through the analysis of genomic, pathology, laboratory, and radiology reports, a group of experts in the field are providing customized treatment recommendations to oncologists and their cancer patients, to provide better outcomes.
John and the wider team have big plans to make this treatment available to as many people as possible:
“Right now, the treatment is private pay only, as most insurance only covers basic cancer treatments. We provide an amazing service with incredible results, but currently, only wealthy people can take advantage of it. This is something we are committed to changing – it should not be that rich people get great results, and those with less money don’t.”
John is in the process of establishing a foundation for Iylon, toaccess grants and provide their services to more patients. Over time, as more data is collected to prove the positive impact that precision oncology treatment has on patients, the team will approach insurance companies to encourage them to widen the scope of treatment they cover.
They also have plans to approach local and community hospitals that don’t currently have affiliations with larger cancer treatment facilities, to create partnerships so their specialized treatments can be included within plans at a lower rate:
“Everyone deserves the same quality of oncological care, regardless of where they live. They should not need to relocate to give themselves the best treatment options.”
Despite the circumstances he has faced, John has never been clearer on his mission and purpose:
“My dream is that we see a major breakthrough in the treatment of not just pancreatic cancer, but all cancers. I understand that might not happen in my lifetime, so I also want to focus on what I can do right now, and that’s contributing to better treatment options, lessening the financial burden on patients, and sharing the message that no matter what, redemption is always possible when you look beyond yourself.”
You can watch John’s unforgettable TEDx Talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=poRyLHqvgrY
If you would like to make a donation to one of the foundations or speak with John about future speaking opportunities to raise awareness of the POC, JPT, or Iylon, you can get in touch via :