‘It’s not how much we’ve done, but how much we are doing!’

By: Cyndy Patton

Some of UPMC Hillman Cancer Center’s leading breast cancer researchers, Drs. Adrian Lee and Steffi Oesterreich, hosted the Susan G. Komen Appreciation Day in Pittsburgh to bring Komen researchers from UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, Magee-Womens Research Institute and the University of Pittsburgh together to present their Komen-supported research.

To date, more than $9 million has been donated to UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and its researchers by the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and more than $2 million has been donated by Susan G. Komen Greater Pennsylvania.

Paula Schneider, president & CEO of Susan G. Komen Foundation who was in Pittsburgh to attend Susan G. Komen Appreciation Day, discussed the importance of the organization’s work.

Q. The Susan G. Komen Foundation, founded in 1982, has become synonymous with breast cancer research. It is the largest and best-funded breast cancer research and awareness organization in the country. What should people know about this organization?

A. Susan G. Komen is a 360-degree effort. We are the only organization that addresses breast cancer on multiple levels, including education, public policy initiatives, research, community health and global outreach. We believe this comprehensive way of managing our efforts will make the biggest impact against this disease, especially through our 60 affiliates located in 20 different countries. We have a brilliant organization that is very thoughtful about what we do, when we do it and how we do it.

Q. Since 1982, Komen funded more than $988 million in research with more than $2.2 billion in education, screening and treatment, serving millions of people worldwide. How have your funding sources changed over the years?

A. Fundraising is always one of the biggest challenges. We still have great support for our Komen Walks and Runs, but many other organizations have copied our peer-to-peer fundraising initiatives, so we have further diversified our efforts. Our donors and organizations that support us want to know what we are doing with the funds we raise and to know that we are good stewards of these funds. Grants to support individuals, as well as breast cancer researchers, are always a part of our overall mission. We have had the good fortune of increasing our revenue year over year. We are telling a better story, and we are doing this through our patients, caregivers, researchers, doctors and scientific advisors that we have helped and supported and that have, in turn, supported our efforts. We believe in showing the results of what we can and are accomplishing. We have been able to change the tone of the organization. It’s not how much we’ve done, but how much we’re doing!

Q. How has the Komen organization grown over the years?

A. We have seen growth in all aspects of what we do. We have increased our public policy arm, increased our development team and significantly increased our mission delivery. We are delivering our mission directly to those affected by breast cancer and those involved in breast cancer research. For instance, we have an African American Health Equity initiative to support those women and men who may have difficulty accessing treatment for their breast cancer. We support young breast cancer researchers and organizations that make the best pathway in cutting-edge research that is changing the way breast cancer is treated and increasing the survival rate for patients.

Q. Drs. Adrian Lee and Steffi Oesterreich, leading breast cancer researchers at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, are the only married Komen Scholars and are proud of their work with the Komen organization. What do the Komen Scholars mean to the organization?

A. Komen is led by the best and the brightest, and these are members of our Scientific Advisory Board and our Komen Scholars. Dr. Lee and Dr. Oesterreich are top among them. We believe in supporting these great minds so they can continue with their vital breast cancer research. We have 52 Komen Scholars from around the world to help us get the message out. I ask our Scholars why they do this because they already spend a lot of time in research and advocating. They tell me it’s because Komen supported them early in their careers, and they want to help pay it forward. Our advisors and scholars represent all aspects of breast cancer, are all leaders in breast cancer research and help lead our world-class research programs. They are involved in selecting where our funds are used and where they will have the greatest impact, whether through individual programs, young researcher grants or supporting the needs of our communities. We are proud to support and have the support of the brightest minds in breast cancer research.