Rell Sunn Award

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A special award was established in 1998 to honor the memory of Rell Kapolioka’ehukai Sunn, the “First Lady of Surfing.” Rell was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was just 32 and given only months to live. Rather than submitting to the disease and giving up on life, Rell did exactly the opposite, choosing to live life to its fullest. She passed away on January 2nd, 1998 at the age of 47. Rell came to the very first Cancer Center Luau and brought with her the aloha spirit.

Established in 1998 to honor the memory of Rell Sunn, the “Queen of Makaha,” this perpetual trophy is awarded each year to the person who displays the qualities shared by Rell and the Moores UC San Diego Cancer Center Luau & Legend of Surfing Invitational – who has made a difference in the battle against cancer and embodies the aloha spirit.

The Rell Sunn Award is presented at the Luau, August 19, 2018. View past award recipients below and contact us to submit a nomination for next year's award.


Photo by Tom Keck

2019 Rell Sunn Award Recipients

Brian Druker, MD (left) and Tony Hunter, PhD

Brian Druker, MD (left) and Tony Hunter, PhD

This year’s Rell Sunn Awardees, Tony Hunter, PhD, and Brian Druker ’77, MD ’81, contributed to the development of Gleevec, the first cancer drug to target cell growth without harming healthy cells.

Hunter’s research into the mechanisms of cancer cell growth laid the foundation for Druker’s work targeting enzymes to treat chronic myeloid leukemia.

Today, Hunter investigates protein mediated cell growth, uncovering new chemical pathways that control cancer behavior. Druker explores ways to improve early cancer detection and increase cancer survival rates using precision medicine techniques.

Past Awardees

2018 - Howard Birndorf and Ivor Royston, MD
- John Mendelsohn, MD
2016 - T. Denny Sanford
2015 - Carl June, MD
2014 - Napoleone Ferrara
2013 Kary Mullis
2012 Roger Tsien
2011 -  Dennis Carson
2010 Connie Matsui
2009 David Easter, MD
2008 - Doris Howell, MD
2007 Linda Olson, MD
2006 Georgia Robins-Sadler, MD
2005 David Tarin, MD, PhD
2004 Jon Greif, MD
2003 - Alex Szekely
2002 J. Craig Venter, PhD
2001 Mark Renneker, MD
2000 Charles “Chuck” Gorder, Sr.
1999 Dani Grady
1998 Bill Otterson

2013 Rell Sunn Awardee Dr. Kary Mullis, and Directory of UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center Dr. Scott Lippman