Raising the profile of stomach cancer among legislators

Jul 1, 2020
Raising the profile of stomach cancer among legislators

Despite stomach cancer killing more than 11,000 Americans within a year of diagnosis, research into the disease is severely under-funded, says Andrea Eidelman, Chief Executive Officer at Debbie’s Dream Foundation: Curing Stomach Cancer (DDF).

She adds that the condition receives one of the smallest amounts of federal funding of all cancers.

The foundation, which trains and supports patients to attend annual advocacy days, has worked hard to raise the profile of stomach cancer among policy leaders. But much more needs to be done, she adds.

“During our advocacy days, which in 2020 took place on February 10 and 11, we go to Capitol Hill and advocate for increased federal funding,” she explains.

“It’s always been a surprise when people come back from advocacy meetings and discuss how little their legislators know about stomach cancer. Often, they have never met anyone with stomach cancer or even heard about it.”

Inclusion in federal research programs

“This is even more worrying given that the veteran population has a higher risk of stomach cancer,” says Andrea. “Our advocacy efforts have resulted in stomach cancer being included in the Department of Defense Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program (PRCRP), which makes us eligible to be one of the cancers to receive federal funding.”

Since the inception of DDF in 2009, it has issued research grants totaling $1 million and inclusion in the PRCRP has directed $18 million to stomach cancer research.

“Last year, we lost so many young people that had been connected to the foundation,” Andrea says. “There’s such a high level of frustration in our community – in our patient community and in our caregiver community – because what people want more than ever is to stop losing lives to this disease.”

“I think the science needs to catch up and to do that we need to put money into research so that we can have better treatment options for the disease. That’s number one,” she notes. Making this vision a reality relies on raising awareness of the condition among the general public, policymakers, and legislators alike.

Raising the profile of stomach cancer among legislators

Andrea Paula Eidelman is the Chief Executive Officer of Debbie’s Dream Foundation: Curing Stomach Cancer. Andrea brings a lifelong commitment to advocating for those in need, and has been actively involved in the South Florida community serving on boards and committees of various local medical charities.

A lawyer, with a degree from St. Thomas University, Andrea spent most of her legal career relentlessly advocating for the rights of underprivileged populations, specifically the rights of foster care children and children in need of legal representation due to abandonment, abuse, or neglect by biological parents.

While at Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Andrea oversaw the local legal aid program, which provided legal services and representation to thousands of underprivileged residents. She went on to provide children’s advocacy at Legal Aid Services of Broward, where she headed the Permanency Project and advocated for the rights of hundreds of children in Florida’s foster care system, assisting them in obtaining permanent homes outside of the system with committed loving caregivers. In addition, she worked in the Kinship Project at Legal Aid of Broward where she collaborated with private and public partners to assist relatives in adopting and obtaining custody of children who would otherwise end up in the fate of the state’s dependency system.

Andrea’s vision as an advocate for children helped guide numerous community organizations including Kids in Distress, Harmony, Memorial Hospital, Broward Health, and Mental Health and Associates to accomplish the goals of the grant funder Children’s Services Council. In addition, she worked as a case manager for Health and Rehabilitative Services in Miami-Dade County assisting terminally ill HIV/AIDS patients in obtaining support services.

Andrea’s non-professional life has also been committed to advocating for those in need. She has served on the board of the American Lung Association and Bellas Kinship Group. Andrea was a dedicated DDF volunteer prior to becoming its Executive Director.

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina,  Andrea grew up in Miami, Florida and is a graduate of the University of Miami. She is married to Dr. Frank Eidelman and they reside in Fort Lauderdale Florida with their cat Toby.

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