His experience with the diagnosis and treatment of his wife’s breast cancer has inspired Dick Lippin to establish the Ronnie Lippin Cancer Support and Navigation Program at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Beginning this fall, the program will help people living near the Health Sciences Campus to maximize their chances of surviving cancer by getting them to the right doctors. It will also help them in understanding treatment options, clarifying insurance benefits and finding additional resources.

Ronnie Lippin

Ronnie Lippin passed away from breast cancer in 2006.

Before Ronnie Lippin developed a rare form of breast cancer, the couple had high-flying careers in the entertainment industry. Ronnie Lippin represented top names in music such as Eric Clapton, Prince, Brian Wilson and the Bee Gees. Dick Lippin represented major Hollywood companies as clients of his public relations firm, the Lippin Group.

Despite their success in business, dealing with Ronnie Lippin’s cancer made Dick Lippin feel “like a babe in the woods.”

“I was so sure of decisions I made in business, but when it came to complex medical information, I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing,” Dick Lippin said. “I remember thinking that if I was going through all this, I couldn’t imagine what people who couldn’t afford great care were going through.”

After Ronnie’s death, Dick Lippin partnered with Tower Cancer Research Foundation. He explained the type of program he envisioned to honor his wife’s memory and they steered him toward a $300,000 donation to establish the program at USC Norris.

Linda David, executive director of Tower Cancer Research Foundation, explained that the organization works with its donors to find the right institution in Southern California for the kind of donation they want to make.

“He is passionate about getting help for people who don’t have access to the best care or the understanding of the system to get the help they need,” explained David.

Lippin came to her unsure where his money would do the most good. She knew that Keck Medicine physicians do free cancer screenings in the communities around the campus, where there are high instances of late-stage cancer diagnoses, and she saw an immediate fit.

“A lot of those people who get a cancer diagnosis will benefit from someone stepping in to help them navigate their next steps,” she said.

Zul Surani, executive director of HSC Community Partnerships, said that it was, indeed, a timely and perfect fit. He explained that USC Norris had identified a need to bridge the gap between doing free cancer screenings in the nearby neighborhoods and making sure those people get the help they need.

“We don’t want the people we screen and who need follow up services to fall through the cracks,” Surani said. “We are so grateful for this gift because we think it is will help us fulfill our mission of promoting better health in the community we serve.”

by Hope Hamashige