Robert Shick, Baird branch manager.

Nine years ago, I was told that I had chronic myelogenous leukemia, or CML. I had to tell my children, my wife, friends and colleagues that I didn't think I was going to survive. Dealing with the emotions around the diagnosis was a tremendous burden.

After I was diagnosed, I was told there was a new drug, the first of its kind called Gleevec. I took the pill every day and now the leukemia is undetectable in my system and I've been able to continue my life and career as an advisor.

I was born in Portland, Ore., and by the time I started college I knew this was what I wanted to do. But I wasn't sure how to go about it. 

I graduated in 1983. I had no money or experience and I was trying to enter a very competitive industry. After working in sales, I decided it was time to start building my own advisory business and joined Shearson Lehman Brothers. My goal then was to cold call at least 50 people a day. Looking back, I'm glad I had the discipline to stay tried-and-true to what I believe in: Investing in good companies, being patient and staying diversified. It's about getting better and better every year with your craft, and sticking to it even as markets change. 

I started a branch of McAdams Wright Ragen in Portland and it was just myself and three other advisors. It grew to about 15 advisors in just nine years. We built out the business and were acquired by Baird earlier this year. It happened because we're all rolling in the same direction in terms of our philosophy: If you put your clients first, you're going to be much better off. Most importantly, you'll be able to walk away and feel good about yourself since you're not taking shortcuts.

CML was a death sentence twenty years ago. As soon as I got the keys to my life back, I contacted the doctor who developed the drug that helped me, Brian Druker of the Oregon Health & Science University Cancer Institute. I began to speak alongside him and raising money together to build a new lab for the institute.  In 2008, Nike co-founder and chairman Phil Knight and his wife donated $100 million to the institute. It was renamed the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. I got involved with the institute's fundraising arm, and I am now its chair.

Today, in just over a year we have raised $400 million.  It's been the single biggest honor of my life to be involved with the institute. I have received so much more than I could ever give. It is an incredible blessing. I've had some success in this business. It's been a fun, enjoyable career. But without any doubt, you can't ever feel more fulfilled than when you're giving back.

As told to Maddy Perkins.


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