FORCE is dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. We believe no one should have to face hereditary breast and ovarian cancer alone.
Barbara discovered her BRCA1 mutation in 2003 after her mother had been battling breast cancer for over 12 years. Barbara's volunteer work with FORCE began the following year and continued to expand. Under her leadership, the volunteer operations of the organization grew to 75 groups nationwide. In 2012 Barbara assumed the full time role of Chief Executive Officer, leading a growing staff as it carries out the strategic plans and policies of FORCE. A former Microsoft Corporation executive, Barbara brings more than 25 years of business experience to FORCE's operations.
Barbara and her husband Alan reside in Bayville, NJ.
Dr. Sue Friedman was practicing small animal medicine in south Florida in 1996 when she was diagnosed "out of the blue" at age 33 with breast cancer. At the time, she was unaware of familial risk factors for hereditary cancer. Reading an article about hereditary breast cancer after completing her treatment, Sue realized that she had several indications for a mutation. She pursued genetic counseling, and in 1997, tested positive for a BRCA2 mutation.
Shocked that her health care team didn't alert her to the possibility of being at high risk, and disappointed at having to make critical treatment decisions while unaware of her mutation, Sue acted so others could benefit from her misfortune. She founded FORCE in 1999 to fill the information void for individuals and families with hereditary cancer, and to help them advocate for themselves. After five years as the organization's executive director while maintaining her own busy practice, Sue left veterinary medicine to direct FORCE full-time. Since then, the organization has become an unequaled source of research, advocacy, support, and information regarding risk management, prevention, and awareness.
In 2004, Sue relocated her husband Dan, son Beau, and FORCE headquarters to Tampa to work more closely with researchers to improve medical options, care, and outcomes for people affected by hereditary cancer. She is a 20-year breast cancer survivor.
Sue is co-author of the book Confronting Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer which was published by Johns Hopkins Press February 2012.
After losing her 38-year-old grandmother and 54-year-old mother to hereditary cancer, Sandy grew up thinking that breast cancer was in her future. When Sandy learned of her BRCA1 mutation, she took proactive steps to greatly reduce her chances of this ever occurring to her. In 2006 she co-founded the FORCE outreach group in Philadelphia and has been developing FORCE's outreach program nationwide since 2009 which includes 50 support groups. Sandy enjoys working with FORCE's incredibly passionate volunteer team consisting of over 225 men and women in roles such as outreach coordinators, helpline volunteers, community liaisons and virtual support. She continues to recruit and train additional volunteers to help ensure that no one travels the hereditary cancer journey alone.
She is a former marketing director for Kraft/Alliant Foodservice and a graduate from American University with a BSBA in Marketing and a MBA in Marketing from St. Joseph's University. She lives in Lafayette Hill, PA with her husband Barry, their twins Sam and Emmie (who share her passion for volunteering) and dog Chloe.
Karen brings more than 20 years of strategic marketing and communications experience to her goal of increasing awareness about FORCE and helping families affected by hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.
When Karen discovered she had a BRCA1 mutation in 2009, the information and support she received from FORCE helped her navigate her BRCA journey. As a previvor and FORCE volunteer, she spearheaded a social media growth campaign and efforts that led to the passage of a resolution by the U.S. House of Representatives recognizing National Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Week and National Previvor Day. Today, Karen's personal experiences and dedication to the FORCE cause drive her to build awareness and educate others.
Karen previously led marketing efforts for a startup software company, helping it become the international leader in its industry.
She lives in Potomac, Maryland with her husband and three children.
Ruth Kucharz has eighteen years of non-profit development experience. She began her career working in reservation/sales for ten years with the Walt Disney World Company. She successfully directed nation-wide fundraising programs for a large cancer organization in the roles of Marketing Director and Regional VP, accountable for high-end relationships as well as oversight of 100+ fundraising walks, events, and galas. Previous to joining FORCE, Ruth was the Sr. Director of Annual Giving for the University of South Florida. In her time with USF, she directed a centralized, integrated annual giving program for the university through its accomplishment of a $600 million comprehensive campaign. Ruth has a bachelor's degree in business administration from Florida Southern College.
Ruth lost her mother to ovarian cancer and her grandmother to breast cancer. She and Don live in Clearwater, Florida, and enjoy their five children and four grandchildren.
After a high-risk pregnancy and long-term hospital stays for both herself and her premature twins, Baleigh knew that when she reentered the workforce, she wanted to be involved with bringing hope to others facing difficult medical circumstances. She was happy to have found such a role when joining FORCE in 2017.
Baleigh began her career at The Walt Disney Company in various administrative and resource positions with Merchandise Product Development and Creative Entertainment, and began working for MetLife in insurance benefits administration after relocating to Tampa. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Event Management from the University of Central Florida.
Baleigh lives in the Tampa Bay area with her husband, Jayson, and their children, Avelyn and Slade.
Jackie Medina, Vice President of Finance and Operations Jackie began her association with FORCE while finishing her master's thesis and working as an administrative assistant for the organization. She quickly began taking on additional responsibilities before becoming the organization's Director of Operations in 2008 and then in 2014 becoming the Vice President of Finance and Operations. Jackie works closely with the staff to ensure that day-to-day FORCE operations run smoothly.
Jackie has a Bachelor's of Science from the University of Florida and a Master's in Health Administration from the University of South Florida. She has been working in the non-profit field for over 10 years.
She resides in Wesley Chapel, Florida with her husband Eli, and her children Cadence, Reed and Harper.
Marisol saw her mother fight breast cancer when she was very young, only to lose her when she was 8 years old to ovarian cancer. Since then, she always feared she would one day have those same fights.
Several years later, married and with two beautiful sons, she went for her routine mammogram, but given her family history they suggested genetic counseling. It was time to face her fears and undergo genetic testing.
She tested positive. Knowing very well the pain left behind to those you love, she decided to fight this, and to learn as much as possible. That is when she found FORCE, an incredible source of information with an even more incredible community of fighters like her. She knew she was not alone in this fight.
She has since gone through her mastectomy and oophorectomy; she is a previvor, and proud of it. She knew it was time to give back and she is now in charge of the Helpline at FORCE. She is also involved in her Hispanic community and has participated in several conferences both at home and beyond our borders.
Marisol resides in San Diego, California with her husband , Luis and her two sons, Santiago and Nicolas.
Diane's family was shocked to learn their genetic test results following her aunt's ovarian cancer diagnosis in 1999 at the age of 53. When Diane discovered that her BRCA1 mutation was passed down from her father she decided it was time to take action. She was given information about FORCE through her genetic counselor, and went to local FORCE support meetings and researched options to reduce her risk. Diane made informed medical decisions and is proud to be called a Previvor!
Diane became an outreach co-coordinator in Philadelphia, and quickly decided that she would love to help FORCE in any other way needed. She became the Director of Volunteer Programs and a FRAT Advocate (FORCE Research Advocate Training Program).
She has a BA in Education from Kutztown University and worked for 20 years as an Early Childhood Center Director. Diane lives in Oley, PA with her husband Thomas, and three children Avery, Caleb and Ellie.
Marcy Rubic joins the FORCE team with 21 years of fundraising experience working in health nonprofits. Most recently, she served as the executive director for the foundation of a health system in Northern Illinois, KishHealth System.
Her background includes previous major gift roles with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation, among others. The focus of her master’s thesis was exploring the board’s impact on health fundraising, which was cited by Giving USA and funded in part by the Association for Fundraising Professionals (AFP). She is a past board member of AFP Chicago and is active with the Colorado Planned Giving Roundtable. She earned and has consistently held the CFRE (Certified Fundraising Executive) designation since 2003. “FORCE has a vitally important mission and purpose,” she noted. “I am enthused to connect with constituents and work together for a better future for the hereditary cancer community.” Marcy and her husband, Mark, have two college-age sons and split time between Denver and Chicago.
Lisa manages advocacy, strategic partnerships and community relations for FORCE. She joined the organization in 2008 as Coordinator for the Washington, D.C. outreach organization. Since learning of her BRCA1 mutation in 1999, Lisa's mission has been to educate others about the risks of hereditary cancer. Her recent successes include passage of National Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Week and National Previvor Day 2010; formulation of the EARLY Act, passed with the healthcare reform legislation in 2010; and testifying before the Secretary's Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health, and Science on issues related to direct-to-consumer marketing of genetic tests.
A former marketing communications consultant, Lisa served clients including MCI Communications and Fannie Mae. She has a long history of volunteer work in her local community, synagogue, and schools. Lisa resides in Washington, DC with her husband Gary and two children.
Medha is a two-time young breast cancer survivor, diagnosed at age 27 just a few months after she got married and then again in 2005 at age 37 when her youngest child was just three months old. There is no history of breast cancer in her family and she has not tested positive for a genetic mutation. With her professional background in epidemiology and public health, she worked for several years as a Senior Epidemiologist for the Ohio Department of Health in disease surveillance and prevention. After cancer treatment, her career focus shifted to the breast cancer world. She volunteered with her local Komen affiliate and also with the Young Survival Coalition, supporting and sharing resources with other young women in need in central Ohio. In 2012 Medha joined the staff of the YSC as a Regional Outreach Manager. She continues her volunteer commitment as a Legacy Advocate for YSC’s Respected Influencers in Science and Education (RISE) advocate training program. A new chapter started in August of 2017 when she joined the FORCE team as Director of Education and Research, focusing specifically on the XRAYS Program.
As a trained breast cancer advocate, Medha has participated as a consumer reviewer for the Department of Defense, Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program. She is also a graduate of the 2017 AACR Scientist-Survivor Advocate Training Program. In 2008 she received national recognition for her advocacy and volunteer efforts from the Bright Starts/Kids II company as a Pink Power Mom award winner and in 2017 was recognized by the National Breast Cancer Coalition as a recipient of their National Grassroots Advocate Award.
Medha received her M.S. in Preventive Medicine/Public Health from The Ohio State University. She resides near Columbus, Ohio with her husband Gary and four children, Jaya (23) Nikhil (21), Kieran (18) and Sejal (12). She’s passionately connected to supporting young women at high risk and/or diagnosed with breast cancer, an avid tennis player and loves to travel.
Piri Welcsh, Ph.D., Vice President of Education Dr. Piri L Welcsh was finishing her PhD in Molecular Genetics at The Ohio State University when she read the groundbreaking research paper by Dr. Mary-Claire King describing the location of the first hereditary breast and ovarian cancer gene, BRCA1. Guided by this pioneering research, she committed herself to the study of inherited breast and ovarian cancer. Her postdoctoral project at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center was in collaboration with Mary-Claire’s groups and others to clone BRCA1. During this time, her maternal grandmother was diagnosed and died of breast cancer while her mother was also diagnosed and is currently a breast cancer survivor.
Piri joined Mary-Claire King’s laboratory at the University of Washington in 1996 and spent the next 20 years working with her and others identifying other hereditary breast and ovarian cancer genes as well as studying how BRCA1 and 2 normally function in cells. A few years ago, her mother was diagnosed with a second primary and her mother’s sister and her mother’s cousin were also diagnosed with breast cancer. Piri is a previvor of sorts in that she is part of a high-risk breast cancer “mystery family”-a family with a lot of breast cancer but no known mutation in any known breast cancer gene.
Piri and her wife Karen live in Seattle, WA with their B/G twins and another son. Her family absolutely loves living and playing in the Pacific Northwest!