New Susan G. Komen Florida Advocacy Advisory Taskforce Takes Aim at Reducing State’s Yearly 2,700 Breast Cancer Deaths

Member characterizes taskforce as a “SEAL Team Six” fighting breast cancer.

Susan G. Komen Florida has established the new Komen Florida Advocacy Advisory Taskforce focused on reducing breast cancer mortality and ensuring access to affordable, high-quality breast healthcare throughout the state. The six-member taskforce is comprised of experienced legislative insiders with personal connections to breast cancer who have dedicated their time to reduce Florida’s 2,700 deaths from the disease each year.

Taskforce chair is Andrew Watt, highly experienced in legislative policy and deeply connected in Tallahassee as the former director of legislative affairs for the School District of Palm Beach County. Watt has a personal connection to Komen Florida as the husband of Kate Watt, executive director of the new Susan G. Komen Florida statewide affiliate, who is also a member of the taskforce.

Other taskforce members include:

  • Matthew Choy, director of talent, education, and quality of life policy at the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Choy is a senior government affairs professional with expertise in regulatory and state legislation and coalition building across multiple states and governments.
  • Ben Durgan, governmental affairs and communications director for the Economic Council of Palm Beach County and former chief of staff for State Senator Bobby Powell Jr., is the son of a breast cancer survivor.
  • Rachelle Litt, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. council member, pharmacist and long-time Race for the Cure volunteer.
  • Tyler Smillie, who has held multiple legislative affairs roles at Florida’s Capitol, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Senate, and Enterprise Florida. Smillie lost his mother Kathi to breast cancer in 2001.

The taskforce adds a vital policy component to the work of the new Susan G. Komen Florida affiliate launched in November 2018 that is working to ensure that every Floridian has access to resources to battle breast cancer. Over $57 million in funding has been invested in the state by the global leader in breast health advancements and research to deliver lifesaving education, screening, and treatment services to the state’s most vulnerable communities. Komen Florida recently launched the new statewide Treatment Assistance Program offering financial assistance to women (or men) with a cancer diagnosis who are active in treatment and have incomes at or below 250% of the Federal Poverty Limit.

Funding provides for medications, psychosocial support, child/elder care, transportation to appointments and other items or services to ensure patients have the means to follow their care plans.

“As someone who lost his mother to breast cancer and witnessed others having to fight this battle without insurance or access to care, I am fully committed to working with my fellow members to educate and advocate for positive change,” said Smillie. “Kate and Andrew Watt have done an exceptional job bringing together a strategic team that understands the legislative process and how to get things done—we’re like a ‘SEAL Team Six’ dedicated to eliminating breast cancer.”

The task force will strengthen its impact through recruiting advocates, survivors, breast cancer patients, and others dedicated to supporting the disease from all corners of the state. To that end, a Komen Florida Day at the Capitol is planned for the next legislative session, bringing together breast cancer advocates from across the state to join the task force in advocating for quality and affordable health care, research funding and policy that will help reduce breast cancer deaths.

“What drives our task force is the realization that our work will undoubtedly save lives,” said Mr. Watt. “Many of the 2,700 annual deaths in our state could be prevented with access to care. With Komen Florida and the members of our team, we’re going to change the odds by changing the conversation from lives lost to lives saved.”