"Helping patients through their cancer experience and informing researchers about the patient's perspective is how I make sense of my cancer diagnoses." Diagnosed with breast cancer at age 34, Diana's account is one heard frequently from women diagnosed at an early age. Diana serves on the Research Advisory Committee for the Young Survival Coalition. "I was told I was too young to have breast cancer. I take very seriously my charge to educate others, and especially, how to be pro-active when statistics do not serve you."
Diana jump-started her medical education by taking the National Breast Cancer Coalition's Project LEAD course in 1996. "I couldn't control my diagnosis. But I could become extremely knowledgeable about breast cancer science, treatment, and the conduct of research. I try my best to make it more patient-centered."
As she moved past treatment, Diana began her efforts in grassroots breast cancer advocacy, alternating this involvement with freelance work in TV production. This ultimately led to an invitation to head the Cancer Survivorship Advisory Council at the University of Southern California (USC) Kenneth T. Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center in Los Angeles. This patient advisory group is one of a few in the United States. Cancer patients interact with cancer research scientists and physicians on the Cancer Center's Working Committees. "I give credit to the Cancer Center Director, Dr. Peter Jones. He didn't have to do this. He saw the importance of representing all the stakeholders in the cancer research process and the Executive Committee did as well. I learn all of the time from the experts at USC."
"As at most institutions, we have the believers and the nonbelievers in the importance of the role played by advocates. Luckily for me, we have a high concentration of believers among our breast cancer researcher...scientists like Leslie Bernstein, Michael Press, Malcolm Pike and Anna Wu. But even our nonbelievers occasionally allow themselves to learn something from advocates."
Diana's participation extends to her role on the Institutional Review Board and as a speaker at the Keck School of Medicine. "We saw the value of the Standardized Patient Program used to educate medical students about physician-patient communication. But we thought they'd benefit from real life interactions with cancer patients, even early in their medical education." The Introduction to Clinical Medicine faculty has incorporated Diana and the other members of the Cancer Survivorship Advisory Council into their curriculum and other medical school programs.
"I especially value my participation as a consumer reviewer for the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program." Since 1999, Diana has served on panels for training grants, IDEA Awards, Innovator Awards, and tumor biology. "The peer review process isn't perfect but I believe consumer participation with informed, impassioned advocates makes it significantly better. Having reviewers who are up to date on the latest evidence in breast cancer also serves everyone better."
Diana has served as an advocate member of the State of California Breast Cancer Research Council and currently serves on the Working Group for the NCI/NIEHS Working Group of the Breast Cancer Environmental Centers.
She serves as an advocate on a DOD BCRP-funded Breast Cancer Center of Excellence with Michael Press, PI, University of Southern California, and Geoffrey Greene, PI, University of Chicago, on "Hormonal Carcinogenesis" and commends the funding of these multidisciplinary centers that require consumer participation.
She also serves on the Data and Safety Monitoring Committee of the California Cancer Consortium. She served as a consumer and/or programmatic reviewer for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the Avon Foundation, the California Breast Cancer Research Program, and NCI/NIEHS.
Recently, Diana headed back to school part-time to begin work on her MPH degree. "My class work complements my work in the best possible way. I'm one of the older students in my class…the one who isn't wearing the rose colored glasses."