Erica Austin

SIU Medicine employee, breast cancer survivor to model at New York Fashion Week

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Community activist, local school board member and SIU Medicine deputy director Erica Austin will model at this year's New York Fashion Week in September at the (R)Evolution fashion show. Austin, who recently underwent breast cancer surgery, will walk the runway for Dana Donofree, a breast cancer survivor and the designer and founder of AnaOno, an international intimates clothing line for women with breast cancer. (R)Evolution features models who are patients with a breast cancer diagnosis. Since 2017, these shows have raised more than $280,000 for metastatic breast cancer research. 

“I’m grateful to be able to turn my story into something positive to help other women,” says Austin of her upcoming modeling debut. “Early detection and research to find a cure are critical, especially for Black women who have a higher mortality rate.” Austin is the deputy director of SIU School of Medicine’s Office of External Relations. Approximately 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer during their lifetimes, and the mortality rate for Black women is 40% higher than for white women, according to the American Cancer Society.   

Austin has received numerous awards for her dedication and advocacy in the Springfield community. She founded a non-profit for youth, The L.Y.N.C. (Leading Youth, Networking Communities); serves on several boards, including Springfield District 186 School Board, and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. In 2020, Austin was instrumental in the implementation of COVID-19 testing centers in Springfield. 

Past SIU Medicine models in the fashion show include, Susan Danenberger, owner of Danenberger Family Vineyards and Tami Russell, Springfield Police officer and president of Police Benevolent and Protective Association Unit 5. Dannenberger will walk the runway again this year. 

The fashion show is part of the Plastic Surgery Foundation’s twelfth annual Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day, which aims to raise awareness and educate women about their post-mastectomy breast cancer care options. Breast reconstruction surgery after breast cancer is considered a reconstructive procedure and is covered by health insurance, regardless of when a woman chooses to undergo reconstructive surgery.   

“Many women aren't aware of the options for breast reconstruction after mastectomy, or that insurance must cover the cost of reconstruction,” said Nicole Sommer, MD, a plastic surgeon at SIU Medicine who specializes in breast reconstruction. “BRA Day inspires women to educate themselves on care options and make the decision that is right for them.” 

BRA Day is a collaboration between the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the Plastic Surgery Foundation, plastic surgeons specializing in breast surgery, corporate partners and breast cancer support groups. 

Watch the WICS News Channel 20 segment on Erica Austin.

About SIU Medicine

The mission of SIU School of Medicine is to optimize the health of the people of central and southern Illinois through education, patient care, research and service to the community. SIU Medicine, the health care practice of the school of medicine, includes clinics and offices with more than 300 providers caring for patients throughout the region.

About the Institute for Plastic Surgery at SIU Medicine

The Institute for Plastic Surgery is home to five fellowship-trained plastic surgeons who specialize in breast, burn and cancer reconstructive surgery, hand surgery, microsurgery, cleft lip and palate repair, facial reanimation, extremity reconstruction and cosmetic surgery. Reconstructive plastic surgery strives to restore appearance and function for patients with defects resulting from trauma, infection, tumors, burns, birth defects or disease. Cosmetic or aesthetic plastic surgery is aimed at improving a patient's appearance.

Created at SIU School of Medicine in 1973, the Springfield-based institute has grown to include more than two dozen providers, competitive residency and fellowship programs, a hand surgery and therapy center, and two cosmetic surgery locations. The institute is known nationally and internationally for its work in many areas including microsurgery, hand surgery and therapy, reconstructive surgery, aesthetic surgery, and specialized care in the treatment of burns and problematic wounds.

About the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and Plastic Surgery Foundation 

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is the largest plastic surgery specialty organization globally. Founded in 1931, the society is composed of board-certified plastic surgeons that perform cosmetic and reconstructive surgery. 

The mission of ASPS is to advance quality care to plastic surgery patients by encouraging high standards of training, ethics, physician practice and research in plastic surgery. The society advocates for patient safety, such as requiring its members to operate in accredited surgical facilities that have passed rigorous external review of equipment and staffing. 

ASPS works in concert with the Plastic Surgery Foundation, founded in 1948, which supports research, international volunteer programs and visiting professor programs. The foundation’s mission is to improve the quality of life of patients through research and development by providing invaluable support to the research of plastic surgery sciences through a variety of grant programs.

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