April 21, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC—Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) and Congressman Robert Dold (R-Highland Park) along with 24 colleagues today introduced bipartisan legislation to award Dr. Ernie Bodai, creator of the Breast Cancer Research Stamp, with the Congressional Gold Medal.

Dr. Bodai, a breast cancer surgeon, successfully launched a campaign in the mid-1990s to create the stamp. Since that time, almost one billion stamps have been sold in the United States, raising more than $80 million for cutting-edge breast cancer research.

“Dr. Bodai’s simple yet profound idea has saved thousands of lives,” Rep. Speier said. “As both a surgeon and an advocate, he has been on the front lines of the war against breast cancer. The Congressional Gold Medal is a fitting tribute for all Dr. Bodai has done to improve the health and well-being of our nation.”

“Far too many of our mothers, sisters and wives are threatened by breast cancer. In fact, one out of every eight women in our country is diagnosed with the disease during her lifetime,” Rep. Dold said. “Dr. Bodai’s efforts have already increased funding for breast cancer research by more than eighty million dollars and saved countless lives. He is, without a doubt, extremely deserving of the Congressional Gold Medal.”

“Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women, killing an estimated forty thousand women a year,” said John C. Jennings, president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “The Congressional Gold Medal is an exceptional way to highlight the strides made with the $80 million raised from the Breast Cancer Research stamps. Dr. Bodai deserves this award for his far-reaching impact on women’s health, raising much-needed research funds with the goal of one day curing breast cancer.”

“Dr. Bodai’s ingenuity, his hard work and his personal commitment have benefitted millions of women and men worldwide,” said Susan G. Komen President and CEO Dr. Judith A. Salerno. “Breast cancer death rates have been dropping steadily in the U.S., and three million women and men are breast cancer survivors, thanks in large part to the research made possible by the breast cancer stamp. Everyone in the breast cancer community owes Dr. Bodai a debt of gratitude. He is truly deserving of the Congressional Gold Medal.”

“We commend Dr. Bodai’s unrivaled efforts to prioritize cancer research through the pioneering of the Breast Cancer Research Stamp, which has raised more than eighty million dollars for breast cancer research since 1998,” said Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). “This funding has the potential to help advance our understanding of a disease that impacts about one in eight women in the U.S.—far too many of our mothers, wives, sisters, and friends.”

“Dr. Bodai has demonstrated an unyielding commitment to breast cancer research and has also used his role as a prostate cancer survivor to increase prostate cancer awareness,” said David Hoyt, executive director of the American College of Surgeons. “His past and continued efforts embody the American College of Surgeons’ dedication to improved quality of care and better outcomes for patients across the country.”

“Living Beyond Breast Cancer is thrilled to join the call to bestow this high honor on Balazs ‘Ernie’ Bodai, MD. It was Dr. Bodai’s brilliant idea to create a postage stamp that, since 1996, has enabled ordinary Americans to collectively contribute an extraordinary amount of funding toward research seeking to end breast cancer. This idea that began in the United States now has worldwide impact and citizens from seventy other countries are funding research on breast cancer. For this work as well as his many other outstanding contributions, we urge U.S. Congress to recognize Dr. Bodai,” said Jean A. Sachs, CEO, Living Beyond Breast Cancer.

“It is an amazing testament to the human spirit and the ability one person has to do a thing, even one thing, and through their intention and passion, create a ripple that saves lives, gives hope, and positively changes the course of thousands of lives. Dr. Bodai's commitment to breast cancer has and will continue to provide better outcomes for not just breast cancer patients and survivors, but for those who we hope never will be diagnosed with the disease,” said Maimah Karmo, a nine-year breast cancer survivor and founder/president of the Tigerlily Foundation.

Dr. Bodai became a physician at age 26 and pledged his life to helping others. Recognizing the growing and deadly impact of breast cancer, he became frustrated with the slow pace of funding for research. So he came up with the idea of creating a stamp, dedicating years of his time and more than $100,000 of his own money to lobby for its passage. The Stamp Out Breast Cancer Act was signed into law in 1997, proof that one person really can make a difference. Since the first stamp was unveiled in 1998, over $80 million has been raised for research into how and why breast cancer cells grow and divide, the causes of breast cancer tumor metastasis and progression, and methods to increase early detection.

Dr. Bodai has now undertaken a self-funded global journey which has led to more than 70 countries committing to creating their own stamps. After he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000, he became an advocate for that disease as well and is currently working on a similar effort to benefit prostate cancer research.  

The Congressional Gold Medal is, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. It is awarded to an individual who performs an outstanding deed or act of service to the security, prosperity, and national interest of the United States.

This bill is supported by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the American College of Surgeons (ACS), the Breast Cancer Fund, the Center for Women Policy Studies, Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC), Susan G. Komen, and the Tigerlily Foundation.