UCLA Health, local community members and former patients gathered Thursday for an open house event that sought to celebrate UCLA Breast Center Santa Monica’s growth over the years. Attendees enjoyed refreshments, tours and the opportunity to connect with the center’s many patients and doctors.

Being diagnosed with cancer can be a scary time in one’s life as the disease often takes an emotional and physical toll on those who are diagnosed. But thanks to the surgeons and staff at the UCLA Breast Center Santa Monica, residents do not have to go through the fight alone.

Marjan Shokri is a former breast cancer patient who received care at the local breast center when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2016. On Thursday, the survivor reminisced on the life-saving assistance she received at the local center, which is a place she said she is forever indebted to.

Shokri was joined by UCLA Health staff, administrators and other former patients Thursday for an open house event that sought to celebrate the center’s growth and allow visitors an opportunity to tour the facility.

“The center started in 2012 in Santa Monica when six different specialists decided to create a team,” Dr. Amy Kusske said prior to the event. “So, the goal of this was that every newly diagnosed breast cancer patient — their radiology was reviewed, their pathology was reviewed and then they’re met with a medical oncologist, a radiation oncologist, breast surgeon,” and possibly a plastic surgeon and a social worker.

“We know it’s very stressful to have to go find the radiation doctor, find a medical oncologist and all of these doctors all over town,” Kusske said, “so we were like, okay, we’re going to bring it all to the patient,”.

As she continued describing the center’s progression over the years, Kusske said, as recent as six months ago, patients who had a lesion in their breasts that a doctor could not feel had to be wheeled two blocks down the street to see a radiologist, but now UCLA Breast Center Santa Monica will house radiology, oncology, surgery, pathology and imaging departments in-house.

Shroki remembers laughing with her husband about having to be wheeled down the street.

“It makes me happy to be part of this growth (and) to be able to return to the center to celebrate the unique program, because this was a place who took care of me and made me well,” she said. “They feel like family — like a really, really distant one that you didn’t ask for — but still one who really saved your life.”

Kusske said, “I think we’re a unique program that offers patients on the west side of the 405 a unique experience and satisfactory patient experience because we offer them an entire center that allows them to benefit for so many reasons.”

Shroki said she could speak for hours detailing the comprehensive care she received personally from Dr. Kusske at a time when she was feeling a lot of emotions.

“Essentially, every new patient who comes through gets treated like that,” Kusske said, before she went on to enjoy an evening of laughs with her peers.

For more information on the UCLA Breast Center Santa Monica, visit uclahealth.org/breasthealth/santa-monica.

brennon@smdp.com

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