I hope you had a lovely 4th of July! We celebrated in our corner of L.A. with a run, parade, and fireworks!

I also spent time thinking about what independence means in our country.  For me, it is not only about gaining independence from England, but the fact that we all have the independence or right to be who we are, say what we think, and challenge the status quo.  This has certainly been the underpinning of my life and my mission.

To be sure, as a woman in the sixties, I faced obstacles in college and medical school that my male counterparts did not. Sexism was still rampant (there were 5-10% quotas for women in medical schools) and no one wanted to hire a woman surgeon! But being an outsider led me to believe in myself and speak the truth.  This approach has led to many controversial opinions, such as breast conservation being as good as mastectomy or that hormone replacement therapy might not be the answer to all women’s problems. It’s why I helped launch the breast cancer advocacy movement and wrote the Breast Book.

These values are also at the root of my commitment to head a Foundation that is fiercely independent and that takes pride in challenging the status quo and pushing the research community to expand its vision.

The Army of Women is but one example of what our independence can do. Scientists told us it was too hard to study women, and that women didn’t want to be part of the research. We knew they were wrong—and so did the more than 356,000 women who have already signed up for the revolutionary opportunity to be part of the research that will tell us what causes breast cancer and how to prevent it.

Our bi-annual International Symposium on the Intraductal Approach to Breast Cancer is another. As the diverse researchers who attend this conference repeatedly tell us, the Symposium is one of the few places where they feel they can think outside-the-box, interact with scientists, clinicians, and advocates, and gain inspiration for heading down new avenues of high-risk, high-reward research. And we reward them with pilot grants for doing so!

This independent streak also shapes the research conducted by the Foundation. We don’t want to do what everyone else is doing. We want to break new ground and take the risks inherent in doing research designed to shake up the way we think about breast cancer and not just slightly advance what we already know.

It’s wonderful to have the freedom to be independent. And that’s why I want to send a huge “Thank You!” to everyone who supports the Foundation and allows us to pursue the research that can reap the big rewards.  Each time you make a donation to the Foundation, you are waving a flag in support of our independence and our commitment to end this disease. And you can be sure the Foundation will host the biggest fireworks show in town when that day is here!

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2 Responses to Celebrating Independence

  1. Susan, I don’t get to say this much since you left me to the mercy of the people who came after you at UCLA, but I look at what you’re doing and the commitment involved, and it inspires me to get off my butt and do what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m not as good a writer as I am a marketing person, it’s the necessary means to an end that’s all about helping people. I need to put the blinders on and do the work. Your sketch of your career is inspiring. Anyway, wanted to say even when I disagree with you, I’m so proud to know you, and proud of what you’re doing. You’re Really doing it.

  2. Lisa Grey says:

    Just wanted to thank you for being a great role model. My organization, Pink Kitchen, is still so tiny. But I believe in what I’ve started… and when I look at the good things you’ve done for all of us survivors, I am inspired to keep going.

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