October 20, 2009

How Smart Is Your Favorite Organization?


Bigger isn’t always better.  More isn’t always better.  Louder, snazzier, cuter, more prolific isn’t always better.  But I think smarter IS always better.

I was recently asked how I decide what organizations I donate to.  A few years back the head of the American Cancer Society blew me away.  He said increased access to health insurance could reduce cancer mortality rates just as much as scientific discoveries.  Who cares if we find cures that nobody can afford?  Hundreds of thousands of Americans die because they cannot afford proven cancer treatments. This doesn’t take complex microbiology to fix. All we need are better public policies.

I’m only donating to organizations providing education and action in support of the public option.  Surprisingly, no cancer organization is doing this work in a serious manner.  So I’m donating time and money to orgs supporting real healthcare reform like Campaign For Better Health Care, and Health Care for America Now.  Moral: Don’t just donate, donate smartly.

On Monday’s Stupid Cancer Show, we interviewed Diana Balma, Executive Director of Stand Up to Cancer.  These folks aren’t just dishing out cancer research grants the way most foundations do.  Rather than encouraging competition between scientists working in separate labs, who don’t share critical information, SU2C is creating and funding dream teams of scientists who collaborate.

Throwing $73 million at cancer research doesn’t impress me.  But giving $73 million to cancer research in a way that changes the model for how research is conducted – that’s very impressive.  Moral: Don’t just do research, do research smartly.

Yesterday I learned Planet Cancer (a young adult cancer organization) is merging with the Lance Armstrong Foundation.  Many organizations duplicate services, raise money but don’t prioritize their budgets, promote their name but have no useful programming, or are working in a vacuum.  Why?  People’s egos and desire to do good sometimes gets in the way of what is useful.  Not Planet Cancer.

Combining the clout and resources of the Lance Armstrong Foundation with Planet Cancer’s know-how in serving young adults is a super smart move.  Moral: Don’t just run an organization, run an organization smartly.

Who do you donate to and why? What are some of the smartest projects in the cancer community? Do you agree that smarter is better?

Read the Making A Difference section of Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s to learn more smarts about making change.

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March 29, 2009

Hot Healthcare Law


Sexy Librarian
If you’ve been reading my blog or my book you know I’m a total geek for hardcore legal resources and factual information. (One of my alter egos: sexy cancer law librarian.)

Last month, a family member was in the hospital and I was seriously displeased with the administration. I called a meeting and sat down with the CEO of the hospital and his posse and read them a riot act, peppered with a few key nuggets of healthcare legal knowledge. Not only did I get what I wanted but, when I left they all said, “We had no idea you were a lawyer.” My reply “I’m not. I’m a cancer patient.”

My motto is ‘Think, question, and shout when you need to.’ You can do this quite effectively with a little bit of legal knowledge under your belt. So, stop thinking of healthcare law as a nightmare, and start using it to your advantage.

The Stupid Cancer Show
Listen tonight to the Stupid Cancer Show, at 9 PM EST when co-host Matthew Zachary and I will be talking about recent updates to the law that affect young cancer survivors. Our great guests are Joanna Morales, Director of the Cancer Legal Resource Center and Paula Pearlman, Executive Director of the Disability Rights Legal Center.

Do the words “healthcare law” excite you or make you want to run? Have you ever stated your rights or referred to a law in a medical setting? What were the results? What legal questions would you ask Paula and Joanna?

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