a special program of the National Emergency Medicine Association (NEMA)

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Week: 594.7 

Guest: Susan Braun, Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation 

Topic: Race for the Cure  

Host/Producer: Steve Girard 

NEMA: Thanks for joining us....today we have Susan Braun, the president and CEO of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation...which raises money across the country with it’s Race for the Cure events. Tell me the story of how the foundation came to be...  

BRAUN: The foundation was started 15 years ago by Nancy Brinker, whose sister was Susan Komen. Susan died of breast cancer at a very young age, leaving two little kids...and her sister Nancy vowed that she was going to do everything in her power to see to it that the darkness that surrounded Susie’s illness was not going to continue to be the case. Susie didn’t have good access to support systems, to the best of medical care...and breast cancer wasn’t even very broadly talked about in the public at that time. And so Nancy started the Komen Foundation in order to change that. To change the way of care, and what women had to go through that was in existence at the time that Susie died.  

NEMA: How did the organization grow?  

BRAUN: Part of how it grew was an increasing awareness in Washington of the importance of breast cancer as a disease. Nancy was very active during those late 80’s especially, in Washington, serving on breast cancer committees...the President’s panel and so forth...in order to make this message better known, to bring the message of breast cancer, it’s devastation, and the need for research and education for screening, for more services and more research to be brought to bear on breast cancer. Now, presently there are about 20 thousand volunteers ...we’re primarily a volunteer organization throughout the country...we have 36 chapters in 77 Race for the Cure events...where people are volunteering their time and their energies to raise money and awareness for breast cancer.  

NEMA: What was the reason for doing an event like a road race?  

BRAUN: A number of things...one was the connection between a person’s being able to get out and take action. And one thing the Race for the Cure brings to people is the ability to physically go into motion...and in that way to make a contribution in the fight against breast cancer. So the idea was to bring people together to show, in a physical way, their commitment...and also, as a group. And it grew from being a singular race in the early years, to being larger and larger races in more and more cities throughout the course of the series development. And the early cities were Dallas, Portland, Peoria...where Nancy was brought up and where Susie lived and died...Washington, D.C. was one of the earlier races, and has become a very major event in Washington. And the series has actually grown to be the largest 5K series in the country.  

NEMA: How many people will join in the runs through the year?  

BRAUN: We’re estimating between 500 and 600 thousand people will participate. What we’ve seen so far in the course of the year is that participation is up quite a bit...so those numbers might be exceeded. Each race has brought in even more participants than they had anticipated.  

NEMA: Now there are many ways that people can help with the Race for the Cure...? 

BRAUN: You will see elite class runners, and you will also see everyday people who will walk in the race. Most races...it is officially a 5K series, again, it is a race...although many participants walk. And most of the races also have a one mile fun walk for families who want to participate together. So, by no means does one have to be a runner, and certainly not an elite class runner, in order to participate.  

NEMA: How about the volunteer ranks?  

BRAUN: There are countless ways that we can make good use of people’s interest in volunteering and helping out. We have a web site....www.raceforthecure is one. And we also have breast cancer info on the internet, where people can find out more information about how to volunteer, and also about where the races are held, and who the contact person would be who’s organizing the race. And we also have an 800 number...which is 800-635-5355...that people can call to get additional information about the activities in their area...the races and whom they can contact.  

NEMA: How is the money raised distributed?  

BRAUN: Primarily it is kept in the communities in which they’re raised. That’s a central tenet of the race itself. 75% of the net stays in the communities, and 25% comes to our national grants program. And because we have very good sponsorship for the race series, the entire amount, without any overhead taken out, goes to the national grant program. So, the 75% that stays in the community is spent on outreach programs, education programs, screening programs, primarily...often these programs are targeted for the medically under served.  

NEMA: What are some of the programs you feel have been especially rewarding?  

BRAUN: We’ve been participatory, for example, with the Centers for Disease Control, in their breast cancer early detection program, in many locations. We have funded a number of groups that have people within their own ethnic communities go out and work with others to bring them messages of breast cancer screening and of breast health. We’ve got an Hispanic program, several African American programs that have been developed this way -again within communities. There is also a wonderful peer review research program that we fund at the national level from the 25% of funds that come to us from the race... through which we provide grants for both basic and clinical research..and this is all peer reviewed. It’s excellent research, everything I’ve seen is just so impressive. We also provide funds for post-doctoral fellows who are specializing in breast cancer...specializing their research. And then, also, for models for community outreach and education programs.  

NEMA: There has been some confusion in the guidelines for breast cancer screening over the last year or so...different recommendations from different groups and government agencies. Where does your organization sit on this point?  

BRAUN: The guidelines that we recommend are that the woman be screened, have a baseline mammography screening at about the age of 35...and that from age 40 on, she be screened annually. Now, some of the controversy has been over whether or not...particularly in the age group of 40 to 49...that screening is necessary. But both from a statistical standpoint and also from a public health and individual human being standpoint, we’re very strong in the opinion that the testing, mammography screening should be annual for women starting at age 40. And then there are also...we have increasing information about people who might be at a higher risk, and recommend that they, and or anyone who has a problem or concern, talk to their health care professional about possibly even being screened earlier. 

NEMA: What are the goals of the Race for the Cure...geographically and monetarily?  

BRAUN: Our overall mission is to eradicate breast cancer. And we do that through the advancement of research, screening, education and treatment. We see the needs in all of those areas rising. We hope to bring in...within the next couple of years..about 50 million dollars a year to be able to devote to these various components of our mission. In the years since the foundation has begun, in 15 years, we’ve raised a total now of just about 90 million dollars. And know that there is need in excess of these goals, and that’s the monetary component. But we also very much understand the race to be an excellent means of reaching out to parts of the community, to groups of people who might not other wise get through other mechanisms the message about breast cancer. That it needs to be detected early. That it is a major disease among women, and something that we need to know more about. We really know very, very little about breast cancer, and it’s risks overall...that we need to know more, we need to be able to eradicate the disease. That doesn’t just mean find the biological or chemical or molecular cure for the disease, but also to be able to insure that when we have more answers, those are disseminated into the community, and that people have access.

NEMA: Susan Braun, president and CEO of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation...which organizes the Race for the Cure 5K runs all around the country. Check out when the races are in your area, or if there is some other way you can help by calling 800-635-5355...or to find out other ways to participate.  

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NEMA: Thanks for joining us for today’s program. If you have any comments or suggestions, contact this station. Or visit our home page at: www.nemahealth.org/ ...for a look at transcripts of this or past programs, or to find out more about the National Emergency Medicine Association. I’m Steve Girard at The Heart of the Matter.