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Little Melissa Depa made more of an impact in her three short years than most people make in a lifetime.

After smiling and dancing her way through every possible cancer treatment, Melissa lost her battle with leukemia. In her last days, her father, Accenture Managing Director Joseph Depa, promised her he’d never stop fighting for her.

Fueled by his pledge to his daughter and supported by his family, friends and his Accenture team, Joe is committed to continuing Melissa’s legacy and helping find a cure for childhood cancer, personally and professionally.

Support in the darkest hour

Joe will never forget the day he and his wife, Erika, got the devastating news no parent should ever have to hear:

Their sweet three-year-old Melissa had cancer.

It was aggressive, and she’d need immediate treatment, starting with four months of intensive chemotherapy. They planned to be by her side, every step of the way.

When he told his supervisor, Casey Roos, he’d need to take an extended leave of absence from work to be there for his family, he replied, “No, you don’t.” Joe said, “Of course I do—nothing in the world matters more to me than being with my daughter right now.”

Little did he know that Casey had his leave covered. Joe would be able to take the time he needed to focus on his family without worrying about losing insurance or his paycheck.

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"Accenture stood by me in my darkest moment." -Joe Depa

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Casey had already submitted a request through the “Hours that Help” program, where people can share personal time off (PTO) with team members in need. Within two hours of the request, people donated enough PTO to last the entire time Joe needed to be out—and then some.

Joe was hesitant at first, feeling guilty to take PTO away from people who worked hard and earned it. But Casey replied, “Wouldn’t you do the same for me?”

“That’s something that’s really stuck with me—it really speaks volumes about our people and our values. I got to take the time I needed to focus on my family and my daughter. Accenture stood by me in my darkest moment,” said Joe.  

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Melissa Depa on bike in hospital

Melissa Depa just being a kid while in the hospital

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Working for a cure

Thanks to the work Joe does every day, he doesn’t just fight cancer on his own time.

As head of Applied Intelligence for Accenture’s South market unit, Joe leads a team of data scientists, consultants and artificial intelligence (AI) strategists who use data, analytics, AI and new technologies to help improve customer experience, drive innovation, boost revenue and transform businesses.

“When Joe asked our Applied Intelligence team to be a part of his quest to find a cure for childhood cancer, it was an enthusiastic yes,” said Jimmy Etheredge, CEO of Accenture North America. “By helping Joe keep his promise to Melissa, we are also making good on our company’s mission to improve the way the world works and lives. All of Accenture can be proud of the work we’ve done—and we thank Joe and his family for all they’ve done in their daughter’s name.”

We recently announced a new data and analytics approach, developed in collaboration with researchers and clinicians from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, one of the largest pediatric cancer centers in the world, and the Target Pediatric AML computational working group, a large-scale research project that supplied the data.

Developed by our data scientists, this approach aims to enable pediatric oncology physicians and researchers, specifically those focused on pediatric acute myeloid leukemia (AML), to better analyze patient clinical trial and genetic data, with the potential to improve precision medicine.

While it isn’t a cure, this new approach is one big step toward better understanding and treating childhood cancer.

“I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to combine my passion and my purpose, and to have the support of my Accenture family and people whose lives have been touched by cancer,” said Joe.

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Joe and Erika Depa and their son with a car full of toy donations

Joe and Erika Depa and their son collecting toy donations for children facing cancer

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A “Band-Aid for the soul”

Nothing they do will bring Melissa back, but Joe and Erika see the ability to help others as a "Band-Aid for the soul.” They are devoted to helping find a cure for childhood cancer and helping reduce the burden on those who experience it. 

They work to help families who can’t afford or don’t have access to the life-saving treatments their kids need. They meet often with leading pediatric oncologists at the National Cancer Institute, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, and Joe shares his expertise in data and analytics to work to enable more collaborative data sharing across institutions.

Joe serves on the Board of Cure Childhood Cancer, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that raises funds for childhood cancer research. And to honor Melissa’s memory, Joe and Erika, along with two other families who lost children around the same time, also started a fund called United for a Cure.

They also try to help support the emotional needs of families experiencing childhood cancer. Joe serves as a family mentor for St. Jude’s, and together with their two young boys, they’ve collected more than 5,000 toys and delivered them to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Fueled by their personal passions, Accenture people like Joe are doing work that’s truly transforming the world.

Learn more about Applied Intelligence.


Copyright © 2020 Accenture. All rights reserved. Accenture, its logo, and New Applied Now are trademarks of Accenture.

This content is provided for general information purposes and is not intended to be used in place of consultation with our professional advisors. This document makes descriptive reference to trademarks that may be owned by others. The use of such trademarks herein is not an assertion of ownership of such trademarks by Accenture and is not intended to represent or imply the existence of an association between Accenture and the lawful owners of such trademarks.


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Joe Depa

Global Lead, Data-led Transformation

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