UCLA Programs that Aid Poor Women, Fund Imaging Fellowships Receive Nearly $1 Million from the Avon Foundation for Women

UCLA's Robert DuWors at Avon Cares or Life check presentation
The UCLA Health Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center's Robert DuWors attends the the ninth annual Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.

A patient navigation program offered through UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center that helps poor, uninsured women and a program that funds the training of breast imaging fellows received nearly $1 million in grants raised during the ninth annual Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.

The walk occurred Sept. 17 and 18 in Santa Barbara, California and raised $4.6 million to advance access to care and finding a cure for breast cancer. The Avon Walk Santa Barbara attracted 2,000 participants from 42 states, Washington, D.C., and Canada, including 241 men and 265 breast cancer survivors, who joined together to raise life-saving funds and awareness for breast cancer.

The Avon Cares for Life Program, offered at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center, received $750,000. The program helps poor and uninsured women, mostly minorities, navigate their way through a breast cancer diagnosis. The program also offers participation in breast cancer clinical trials, survivorship services and help with such things as child care and transportation.

UCLA also received a grant of $180,000 to fund a fellowship program in breast imaging. The money will support Avon Foundation Breast Imaging Fellowships at both the Iris Cantor Breast Imaging Center on the Westwood campus and the UCLA Santa Monica Women’s Imaging Center. The fellowship program, run by Dr. Lawrence Bassett, was the first such program created in the United States and has quickly become the most sought after program on the West Coast, Bassett said.

The grants were awarded during the closing ceremony at Carpinteria State Beach. During the ceremony, a breast cancer survivor from Los Angeles, Jessica Berman, spoke about her diagnosis and journey through treatment.

“I got the stunning diagnosis of stage three breast cancer when I was six months pregnant. Thankfully, I was able to carry my baby to 36 weeks and our little miracle is here with me today,” Berman said. “The best advice I received after my diagnosis was that battling breast cancer is like a marathon. Just when you think you’re getting to the end, you’ve got more to go. And when you think your body and spirit will give up, they find a way to keep going. Most of all, you need just as much support at mile one as you do at mile 26. As I prepare to finish my treatments, the Avon Walk is my mile 26.”

Berman said preparing for the two-day walk kept her going when times were difficult.

“I knew that thousands of people would be here for me—and for people just like me,” she said. “When I crossed that finish line today, I knew I could start the next phase of my life because cancer is finally behind me, and lots of life, love and adventure are ahead.”

To ensure the funds raised immediately benefit the community, Carol Kurzig, president of the Avon Foundation for Women, announced more than $2.5 million in grants to 10 Southern California area organizations during the closing ceremony, UCLA’s among them. More grants are slated to be awarded throughout the year to breast cancer programs nationwide.

“Our beneficiaries are leaders from your communities in the fight against breast cancer,” Kurzig said. “They represent organizations that offer life-saving services to patients regardless of their ability to pay and they’re doing cutting-edge research to find better treatments, prevention strategies and, ultimately, a cure. These new grants will literally help them save lives.”

During the Avon Walk Santa Barbara, a noncompetitive event, women and men had a choice of walking a marathon (26.2 miles) or a marathon and a half (39.3 miles) over two days. The route took first-day walkers through scenic Santa Barbara, concluding at the Avon Walk “Wellness Village” at the Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club. The village featured two-person pink sleeping tents, hot showers, hot meals, entertainment, volunteer medical services and comprehensive support services, along with activities such as yoga and a spa zone with mini back and foot massages. On the second day, walkers completed the walk at Carpinteria State Beach, where thousands of family members and friends greeted them and the closing ceremony was held.

To participate in the Avon Walk Santa Barbara, each walker raised a minimum of $1,800 in donations. Since its launch in 2003, the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer series has raised more than $400 million through the dedication of more than 150,000 participating women and men from across the country.