James Coghlin: On a Mission to Promote Early Cancer Detection

Ask Jim Coghlin, Sr. why he has worked tirelessly to raise funds for cancer research and he offers several reasons: personal experiences and a desire to serve the community and carry on a family tradition.

As Chairman and Coach of the privately-held Coghlin Companies in Worcester, which today employs more than 300 associates, Coghlin has experienced his share of challenges and rewards in owning a family business for the past 32 years. As two of his sons joined the business and later began to move into leadership roles, Coghlin looked to increase his involvement in the community.

As he is a third generation of family members with a history of community service, one could say it is in Coghlin’s genes. However his exposure to community service began even as a Nichols student. “People look at philanthropy as giving money. However, it really is time, talent and wisdom,” he says. “A lot of people gave me this at Nichols.”

“I came to Nichols with a poor academic history,” he explains. “Nichols faculty understood that I needed to succeed and helped me develop discipline and study skills, communicate more effectively, and maximize the 168 hours in a week.” As a result, Coghlin was well-prepared to take over the family business when he graduated in 1967.

In 1986, Coghlin began working with Dana Farber to help raise money for cancer research. “My closest friend’s son died of leukemia in 1982 at the young age of 15. Ten years after my friend also died from cancer, we committed to raise 1.5 million dollars to endow a fellowship in his honor and began to fund cancer research to advance treatments for 15-40 year old patients,” he says. “I was looking for a cause, and I found it.”

Coghlin had learned that since 1975, survival rates for 15-40-year olds have not kept pace with other age groups. In fact, improvements in teen and young adult cancer survival rates have remained near 0%. He subsequently learned that delays in diagnosis were a prime reason for the lack of improvement.

As a result, in 2008, he established the non-profit organization 15-40 Connection which focuses on improving cancer survival rates in people ages 15 to 40. “People from this age group are eight times more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than younger people. I believe we can change this startling statistic,” he states.

Coghlin continues to serve as Chairman of Coghlin Companies while he volunteers his time to work tirelessly on behalf of the 15-40 Connection. “The goal is to empower individuals to take personal responsibility for their health, save more lives, and improve cancer survival rates,” he says. “We hope to do this so well that in 25 years or less, this won’t be an issue. If this occurs, then the 15-40 Connection will have accomplished its goal.”

For more information about the 15-40 Connection, visit: http://www.15-40.org/ .