When Dr. Janna Andrews’ mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, it changed her career outlook.
“Being on the side of the patient really opened my eyes to the role doctors play and the disconnect they can have with their patients,” she told The Network Journal in a 2012 interview. “My goal is to end health-care disparities in cancer care. I’ve been working with different community organizations to increase health literacy and access to care in the underinsured and uninsured.”
Today, Dr. Andrews is the Assistant Clinical Professor of Radiation Oncology, North Shore LIJ Hofstra University where she specializes in Breast Cancer, Gynecological Cancer and Gastrointestinal Cancer; she is also the founder of Kicked It In Heels, an organization that has set out to eliminate healthcare disparities in breast cancer, and celebrate and support survivors of the disease. At its annual fundraiser last month, KIIH held a cocktail party to raise awareness and funds for screenings and survivor workshops.
Here, we caught up with Dr. Andrews to talk more about the disease and KIIH’s role in health in survivorship.
TNJ.com: What compelled you to launch Kicked It In Heels, and how did you come up with the name?
Dr. Janna Andrews: I wanted to launch kicked it because I was watching young women and women of color diagnosed with breast cancer going through this very difficult journey without much support. I wanted to create a platform that acknowledges that while the journey may be different for these two patient populations, they deserve to be celebrated. In celebrating, we are also starting the much-needed dialogue about breast cancer awareness.
TNJ.com: KIIH recently held a fundraiser designed to raise awareness, and funds for screenings and survivor workshops. How was the turnout and did you meet your fundraising goal?
Dr. Janna Andrews: The day we held our fundraiser this year we actually had torrential rain. I was terrified the weather would affect the turnout. Thankfully everyone still came out to show support for this year’s honoree Nicole Cosby. And yes we reached our fundraising goal but whenever that happens we just move the bar.
TNJ.com: Research indicates that the largest number of women diagnosed with breast cancer aren’t necessarily women of color, but women of color disproportionately die from the disease at faster rates than other women. Is that accurate, and if so, are there any studies that explain why?
Dr. Janna Andrews: That is true and unfortunately we don’t have a good grasp on why these disparities exist. There are potential gaps along the way in terms of, is it taking longer for women of color to be notified of an abnormal mammogram? Or if a women of color has a biopsy, is it taking a longer amount of time for her to be notified compared to her peers?
TNJ.com: How important are annual screenings, and are they affordable and accessible to women who live in underserved communities?
Dr. Janna Andrews: Get screened it is very important. Many women avoid mammograms because of fear. Mammograms are available to women in underserved communities.
TNJ.com: Do you know of any legislation that is in the works to improve healthcare disparities?
Dr. Janna Andrews: I think the work to end healthcare disparities is ongoing. I know several years ago a legislation bill was passed that stated all women with dense breast must be notified. This legislation gives women critical information that they can take back to their physicians to assess whether they need additional screening.
TNJ.com: What messaging does your team impart to breast cancer survivors who come to KIIH for support?
Dr. Janna Andrews: Our message is to celebrate survivorship, become a part of the kicked it community and lean on each other for support. There is beauty in every journey and every victory and we want to make survivors have the voice and platform to be heard.