TSF adopts California Breast Cancer Research Project

NEVADA CITY, 9 July 2009 – The Sierra Fund is pleased to announce that our organization is the new home for an outstanding regional program.  Effective July 1, 2009, The Sierra-Stanford Partnership has joined with The Sierra Fund to provide breast cancer support groups locally to women via video-conferencing in Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Tehama and Trinity Counties.  This project is in partnership with Stanford University School of Medicine and funded by the California Breast Cancer Research Program. Susan Ferrier, formerly Director of Tele-health Services with the Northern Sierra Rural Health Network, has joined The Sierra Fund’s staff to direct this program.

Providing a home for a much needed and already successful health service fits perfectly into the role that The Sierra Fund already plays, says CEO Elizabeth “Izzy” Martin. “Our mission is to provide philanthropic stewardship and charitable support services for environmental conservation in the Sierra Nevada region, by partnering with private donors and public agencies to increase and organize investment in the land, air, water and human resources of the Sierra Nevada.  We are glad to play our part in working with the California Breast Cancer Research Project to bring crucial services to isolated rural regions.”

Accessing state-of-the-art medical services and treatment can be difficult if not impossible for people living in rural and remote areas of California. “For many rural women living with breast cancer, attending a support group is not always possible,” says Susan Ferrier.  “Although the majority of physicians encourage support group participation and positive outcomes from participation have been documented, many rural or frontier towns don’t have the population to support a regular, professionally-led group.”  In response to this need, The Sierra Fund and Stanford University School of Medicine are working together to provide video-conferenced breast cancer support groups throughout rural Northeastern California.   

This project is funded by a grant from the University of California to Stanford University and The Sierra Fund. 

For more information, check our Breast Cancer Research Project page.    

Project History:
Two years ago, a successful pilot project was conducted in Plumas, Modoc and Siskiyou Counties.  During this pilot, a LCSW experienced in leading support groups, connected simultaneously via real-time video, with small groups of women in Quincy, Alturas and Yreka.  The women met for 1½ hour weekly for eight weeks.  The women were able to connect using telemedicine videoconferencing equipment at their local health care facilities.  It didn’t take long for the women to emotionally connect with each other and begin sharing their stories.  The women vividly described the value of talking to women in other locations about breast cancer treatment and management – which we learned varies greatly from one community to another. The women were eager to hear from women who had traveled to cities to be treated in large hospitals where they received more information and choices.  A woman who had been diagnosed five years previously said, “I learned more from this support group than I have from anywhere else.”

The women completed questionnaires before and after attending the groups and the resulting data showed improvements in the areas of depression and Post Traumatic Stress.   As a result of this successful pilot project, funding was received to replicate the project throughout nine rural northeastern California counties.  There is no charge for women to participate in the groups.