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Breast Cancer Treatment and Support for Servicemembers and Their Families Helps Make the Army Strong « Breaking Defense

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Leonardo DRS hosting teammates of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine for a breast cancer fundraiser during AUSA.

Usually when attendees at the AUSA show take the escalator up to the second floor of the Walter Washington Convention Center (or take the stairs if they’re a fit member of the military), they’re greeted with a sea of tan, gray, and green service members, armored vehicles, weaponry, and rotorcraft. On Tuesday, though, they were greeted by a blast of pink to support breast cancer awareness and treatment. 

At the first booth on the right, Leonardo DRS was hosting teammates of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine (HJF), Bethesda, MD. HJF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing military medicine. It serves military, medical, academic and government clients by administering, managing and supporting preeminent scientific programs that benefit members of the armed forces and their families.

HJF collaborates with the John P. Murtha Cancer Center at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center  to support researchers and help staff research teams. HJF’s services include back office support, financial reporting, regulatory compliance, research administration, and program management. HJF also administers funding for research grants, apportioning it out to the researchers.

“HJF connects together public, private, academic, industry, and DoD communities and organizations,” said Jackie Vendermeersch, HJF director of strategic initiatives and public-private partnerships. “The organization is a resource and the connective tissue to reach DoD and the military medical space for licensing and tech transfer.”

The general public is sometimes surprised to learn that the military is behind different types of research and working to find a cure for cancer is one of them.  

“This research is done for both the warfighter and his or her family,” said Hilary Longo, HJF vice president of communications. “One of the tenants of the Defense Health Agency is to have a medically ready force. If there is a diagnosis of breast cancer in a warfighter then how are they medically ready? They have to be healthy and well, and our job is to support research into innovative treatments that gets those warfighters back to their jobs as quickly as possible. 

“It is also our responsibility to do the same for families of service members who are diagnosed with breast cancer. Providing that family member with access to the same high level of treatment helps the warfighter focus on their job knowing that their family is in good hands.”

HJF’s main, annual fundraising event is the Heroes of Military Medicine awards dinner, where it honors active-duty service members specifically in the medical community, as well as those who support this community of providers. Nurses, trauma specialists, and philanthropists have won awards, which recognizes those who have made a difference in the lives of service members.

The awards dinner is where the cross section of HJF and Leonardo DRS occurs. 

The defense electronics firm, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, has sponsored the dinner fundraiser for the past six years, according to Vandermeersch. 

Recently, Leonardo DRS reached out to HJF to see how it can do more in support of breast cancer services for members of the military and their families. “We’re delighted to expand our existing relationship and grow that relationship into more of a substantive partnership on a year-round basis,” she said.

The Leonardo DRS-HJF relationship will now include support of the “Look Good, Feel Better” Program in Bethesda, MD. The program aims to give active and retired military men, women, and family members affected by breast cancer an improved quality of life as they undergo and recuperate from cancer treatment. 

The program is a non-medical public service that teaches beauty techniques to people with breast cancer to help them manage the appearance-related side effects of treatment. It includes lessons on skin and nail care, cosmetics, wigs and turbans, accessories and styling, helping people with cancer to find some normalcy in a life that is by no means normal.

This week at AUSA 2019, Leonardo DRS began a fundraiser for the Look Good, Feel Better program on the show floor. As part of the fundraiser, the company will grant up to $10,000 in contributions to help military families deal with breast cancer

Leonardo DRS invites each AUSA attendee to place a breast cancer awareness sticker on a recognition wall at Booth 6400 during the AUSA show at the Washington, D.C. convention center, writing in the name of a loved one who has been touched by breast cancer, Leonardo DRS will donate $10 per sticker to HJF to support the program, up to the $10,000 limit.

Since its founding in 1983, HJF has served as a vital link between the military medical community and its federal and private partners. HJF’s support and administrative capabilities allow military medical researchers and clinicians to maintain their scientific focus and accomplish their research goals.

HJF was established by congressional legislation sponsored by Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson of Washington state. Signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, HJF’s core functions include: supporting research and education at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (which is considered the West Point of military medicine and was itself established by congressional legislation in 1972) and throughout the military medical community; serving as a link between military researchers and the private medical sector; and encouraging the participation of the medical, dental, nursing, veterinary and other biomedical sciences for the mutual benefit of military and civilian medicine

HJF started out administering only two federally sponsored research programs. Over the last 35+ years, HJF has grown to a global organization supporting national and international initiatives in a broad spectrum of research areas from traumatic brain injury to HIV and other infectious diseases. Today, HJF manages more than 700 research grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements.

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