Surbhi Agarwal

January 25, 2014 6:02 pm Published by


I can recall being sixteen, and eager to gain exposure to the breast cancer field being bedside as a patient was told her prognosis of stage four-breast cancer and only having a few months left.  There I stood, internally shaken and upset at such a blunt admission of impending death, whereas the patient stood up and spoke to her family members optimistically about wanting to cherish her last few months. As I spent more time with this patient, one statement she made resonated with me: she had no regrets in her life except that she didn’t pursue appropriate preventive measures early on. After learning of her death, I knew that this was a cause I wanted to work for.  I found my passion in not only helping women with breast cancer by wanting to be a breast oncologist, but the desire to implement breast cancer prevention programs, and do my part to diminish the chance that other women would have this regret. My passion for learning about breast cancer has exponentially increased in the last six years through my breast cancer research and clinical work at Northwestern, Harvard, and now USC Cancer Centers. I’ve had the opportunity to learn from the country’s top breast oncologists by immersing myself in various sides of the field including laboratory research, clinical trials, social work and counseling, survivor events, and awareness programs. From these experiences, I have come to the conclusion that prevention and early detection is the best cure for cancer. 

All my experiences inspired me to start a student organization at USC called Trojans Preventing Cancer in the Community (TPCC) that emphasizes the importance of prevention and early detection to lower the cancer mortality rate among high-risk communities in Los Angeles. As the president and founder of the organization, I set up the mission and came up with the outreach initiatives for TPCC.  I contacted homeless shelters, underprivileged high schools, and many more organizations in order to set up educational seminars.  I also recruited an executive board, wrote all the educational seminars, did the advertising and promotion of our organization, and have continued to grow TPCC.  By thoroughly researching, writing, and presenting these educational seminars, I have learned the value of health promotion when appropriately tailored to the specific demographics of a community. I saw the importance of taking into consideration the ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status, language barriers, and past research done on the community’s health behavior of the community I was reaching out to. Presenting information to elderly homeless women versus underprivileged high school students are two completely different experiences, however, both allowed me to gain exposure to public speaking, familiarization with cultural differences between groups, and communicating my central message to empower individuals with preventative measures. When I first taught at Downtown Women’s Center for homeless women, I was touched by their level of interest in our message and the numerous questions they posed to our group.  I had a woman open up to me about her daughter’s breast health and ask me for advice on such a personal issue. One lady even asked me about radiation risks of mammograms and different stories she heard on the news! I noticed the strong desire present amongst them to be equipped with knowledge. These women signed up to receive mammograms and pledged to be proactive about their breast health.  Being able to impact their lives was extremely humbling, but I learned so much from them as well. I learned the importance of gaining respect and trust in order to effectively reach out to a community as well as to never underestimate people. As the year went on, my organization not only tripled in membership, but I was also able to add four new seminars. TPCC showed me the benefit of having my own platform to make the differences that I wanted to.  

 The seminars that most sparked my interest were focused on breast cancer prevention among young women.  We were chose to partner with Bloomingdale’s to host their breast cancer awareness month initiatives to raise money for the USC Norris Cancer Center. I planned a shopping and educational event to promote prevention and early detection, and we raised over $2,000 for the cancer center. In the spring of 2103 we hosted an event called “Pink Up Your Life” for the sorority women of USC that included a barre class, survivor speaker, prevention seminar, raffles, gift bags and more. I learned the importance of properly marketing my events to get over 125 girls to attend, and also how to reach out to well-known corporations for donations and support.  Both of these events really showed me how our generation is unaware of the risks and symptoms of breast cancer, and how important it is to bring attention to this cause. This inspired me to start my own non profit organization called “All Things Pink” to empower young women with the knowledge and resources to reduce the risk of breast cancer by implementing prevention, early detection, and awareness in all aspects of their life.  I’ve seen from personal experience how breast health falls low on the priority list for young women, 

so I started this organization to show women that breast cancer prevention can be easily incorporated into every aspect of their life including art, fitness, fashion, family, music, and culture.  I took hobbies and important aspects of my day-to-day life and incorporated them into initiatives that would combine breast cancer education into activities all young women love.  I also used all the experience, contacts, and strong volunteer base I had made from TPCC to give All Things Pink a platform to start with.  

My role as President and founder of TPCC and Executive Director and founder of All Things Pink has allowed me to promote the importance of cancer education and prevention to hundreds of people as well as grow my passion for this cause.  I have many more goals for achieving my life long dream of impacting the lives of people by lowering their risk of cancer.  I hope to use the $2,000 from the “Be The Change” spotlight award specifically to grow my non-profit organization and implement the many educational initiatives I have planned.  

Website for TPCC:

Staging link for All Things Pink so far:

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