La Jollan takes helm of Cancer Society's California division

By Debbie Hatch

Special to the La Jolla Light

La Jollan Georgia Robins Sadler, Ph.D., is determined to lower cancer death rates. This year, the UCSD researcher and resident is in a good position to do just that.

Sadler began a year-long appointment as president of the California Division of the American Cancer Society (ACS) in October.

She said her focus is on helping the society to achieve its mission, which includes "eliminating cancer as a major health problem."

Sadler, who is the director of community outreach at the Rebecca and John Moores UCSD Cancer Center and a clinical professor of surgery at the university's medical school, began volunteering for the American Cancer Society in1981. She said the collaboration with various ACS volunteers gives balance to her scientific research. From artists to marketing gurus, the ACS boasts thousands of volunteers. "It stretches your mind in different ways," Sadler said.

"My goal is to encourage every volunteer of ACS to share what they know of cancer control with everybody," Sadler said. "If each of the thousands of ACS volunteers talk to 10 people, we'd have a loud voice."

While there is not a direct local benefit to Sadler embracing the position, it certainly doesn't hurt. "You learn from other communities, and you bring that home," Sadler said. "What is good for Northern California is good for Southern California."

Sadler visits and shares ideas with faculty and volunteers from all over the state. She has "intellectually luxurious" relationships with faculty at SDSU, UCLA and UC Santa Barbara, to name a few.

"The ACS scours literature trying to find news on cancer," Sadler said. She brings tangible cancer knowledge and programming to her position. Noticing disparities in cancer-related death rates among minority groups, she initiated educational programs for African-American women, Pacific Islanders and the deaf community.

She advises politicians on health issues and credits former Assemblyman Howard Wayne for getting legislation passed significantly reducing the death rates for breast cancer in women. When Wayne was first elected he contacted Sadler saying, "What do we need?" Sadler's team answered.

Said Sadler:"If we can find cancer early and treat it early, there will be a cost savings to California."

She was right. Prior to the bill's passage, women with little or no health care coverage could be diagnosed with breast cancer but could not be helped until diagnosed as late-stage, which was too late.

Sadler writes grants on weekends and holds weekly meetings with her various groups of students, high school through graduate, assisting in her outreach programs.

"I give my time to do anything I can," Sadler said, including serving on the San Diego Youth Symphony Board of Trustees.

"The double pleasure is you can have the fun of developing new strategies and the pleasure of having them implemented on a local level," Sadler said.

The California Division is one of 13 within the ACS. The majority of other divisions include several states. Under Sadler's leadership, California is a force in the fight against cancer.

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