One of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance’s first Partner Members, the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of California (OCA) parallels the Alliance in many ways. Originally founded in 1998 as a chapter of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, the OCA quickly evolved as an organization, focusing more on involvement specifically in the Central Valley area, as Maria Verbeck states, “we wanted the funds we raised to stay in our local community.” By 2000, the OCA came to fruition, being recognized as an independent organization. Although they had planned to cover the entire state of California, they now cover the Central Valley area, Sacramento, and parts of the San Francisco Bay area. From support groups to information booths, the OCA is constantly finding ways to engage the community.
At the heart of its goals is that of education: educate the public about ovarian cancer, educate women and physicians about the signs and symptoms, and educate those who have been diagnosed about their options. As a Partner Member to the Alliance, the OCA is actively involved in the Survivors Teaching Students: Saving Women’s Lives® program, organizing speeches at Stanford University’s Medical School, and University of the Pacific’s pharmacology students. In addition to STS®, the OCA also has two support groups in Stockton and Modesto, for members to discuss and share their experiences. OCA also regularly organizes efforts at health fairs, conferences, and events, emphasizing awareness and providing access to resources and information. The High Tea of Hope, the OCA’s annual fundraiser, will celebrate its 7thanniversary in May. In 2015, this signature event of the OCA will honor a member of the community who recently passed away from ovarian cancer.
The OCA is also actively involved with California’s Department of Public Health, through the California’s Comprehensive Cancer Control Program and Plan, a detailed effort to reduce the burden of cancer in California. OCA board member Maria Verbeck is a sitting member on the current revision committee and the ovarian cancer sub-committee for the California Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan of 2016-2020. Being located an hour from the state capital has also been a great benefit, as Maria puts it, “Because we are so close to our state capital we have been very connected with ovarian cancer issues across the state.”
From its early days, the OCA has enjoyed the benefits of being partnered with the Alliance. Maria notes, “We are very lucky to have been a part of the Partner Member program from the get-go, because the national Alliance gave us credibility, and to be connected to such a force in the nation it just made sense for us to become Partner Members.” Over the years the OCA has grown in size and scope, always grateful for the resources that the Alliance has offered to it, and looks forward to continuing their work with the Alliance in the years to come.