Keck School of Medicine of USC Clinic Awarded $125,000 for Unique Program For Women At Risk of Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer

Heather Macdonald, M.D.

Women with little or no insurance who have a family history of breast and ovarian cancer are the beneficiaries of an award of $125,000 to the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) from the Avon Foundation for Women.

The funding is one of five “Safety Net” grants awarded during the Avon Walk of Santa Barbara, which took place on Sept. 19, 2011 and raised a total of $4.6 million for breast cancer research. The safety net grants are part of the Avon Safety Net Hospital program, which comprises more than 100 hospitals and community clinics nationwide supported by the Avon Foundation to assist with access to high quality breast health services for women and men with no insurance or other resources.

The funding donated to the Keck School will support the Avon Familial Breast and Ovarian Cancer clinic. This unique clinic at Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center is intended to give patients the same high quality services available in the Lynne Cohen Preventive Care Clinic for Women’s Cancer at USC Norris Cancer Hospital, said Heather Macdonald, assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology and breast surgery at the Keck School.


From left, Charite Ricker, Carol Kurzig and Heather Macdonald

“This is the first clinic of its kind in a public hospital in Los Angeles County,” said Macdonald, who directs the clinic with Charite Ricker, USC Norris genetic counselor. “We are building a medical home for women who have a family history of these cancers. They feel like sitting ducks, watching cancers run through their families, waiting until it’s their turn. We can support them, educate them, empower them and help them empower each other.”

The clinic offers patients surveillance services for early detection as well as prevention strategies including medication, surgery and reconstructive surgery. The grant enables the program to build a database of patients, hire a data manager who follows up on patients’ test results and a nurse navigator who serves as a point person for patients.

“These women have tragic stories,” said Macdonald. “They are often primary caregivers, taking care of multiple aunts, sisters, cousins and parents who have suffered and died from cancer. Their fear is palpable. We are creating a robust system that we hope will address the medical, psychological and social issues affecting their access to the best medical care. After two years of recruiting patients, we have a waitlist of more than 100 women.”

For information on the Avon Familial Breast and Ovarian Cancer Clinic, please call (323) 226-2289.

The Lynne Cohen Preventive Care Clinic for Women’s Cancer at USC Norris Cancer Hospital is a highly specialized, innovative women's care facility that unites research, screening and clinical care for women who are at risk for both ovarian and breast cancers. Patients receive comprehensive breast and gynecologic exams and screenings, access to some of the latest clinical trials, genetic counseling and, if needed, psycho-social counseling.

The Avon Walk Santa Barbara, the seventh of nine Avon Walks this year, attracted 2,000 participants from 42 states, Washington, D.C., and Canada, including 241 men and 265 breast cancer survivors, who all joined together to raise life-saving funds and awareness for breast cancer.

More than $2.5 million in grants, including the Keck School grant, were announced during the walk by Carol Kurzig, president of the Avon Foundation for Women.

University of Southern California University of Southern California