The Santa Barbara Breast Care Alliance held a press conference yesterday at Cottage Hospital to celebrate its formal birth, having racked up a prestigious national certification.

The American College of Surgeons granted SBBCA full recognition from the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers, placing the SBBCA on par with only 13 other centers in California.

For Frederick Kass, a SBBCA doctor, the certification was the product of approximately two years of work.

“It took time to make sure all the pieces were in place to get national recognition,” Kass said. “We always felt we were doing everything medically necessary … but you don’t get there from here unless you pass a pretty tough test, and that’s what this was for us.”

NAPBC has approved SBBCA since 1976, but the new accreditation moves the alliance into the upper stratum of cancer facilities. Dr. Ronald Latimer, a surgeon at the Sansum Clinic — one of SBBCA’s affiliates — stressed the convenience of having a high-caliber facility in the area.

“The quality of care we provide is as high as you can receive,” Latimer said during a press conference yesterday. “You don’t have to go out of the community to get the care you need. This is a momentous day in Santa Barbara.”

SBBCA is offering a new feature, “Breast Center without Walls,” to eliminate the constraints caused by operating out of a single-building facility. Under the  SBBCA program, the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara, Sansum Clinic, and Cottage Health system will now collaborate to bring patients medical care from multiple health disciplines.

“The Breast Center exists because everyone in the community who is passionate about breast cancer and cancer care participates, and there’s not a wall big enough to encompass that group,” Dr. Kass said.

The SBBCA is also renowned for its Patient Navigator program. From diagnosis, women suffering with breast cancer are paired with a “Patient Navigator”, a nurse who acts as a bridge between the patient and the complex medical world.

Tammy Stockero, formerly a chemotherapy nurse for 16 years, now serves as a Patient Navigator with the SBBCA.

“You’d be surprised at the emotional, spiritual, and physical toll the diagnosis takes on a person,” Stockero said. “The navigator serves as an anchor for patients.”

Christine Feldman, a two-time breast cancer survivor, said she had Stockero as a chemotherapy nurse when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer nine years ago. While the program was not in place then, Tammy fulfilled many of the duties required of a Navigator.

“You can start the healing process right away when you have someone navigating for you,” Feldman said. “Once you get a disease like that there’s so many tests and so many big words, so much confusion. It’s great to have someone guide you through that.”

*In a previous version of this article, The Daily Nexus incorrectly imlpied that the SBBCA only encompassed the Sansum Clinic and Cottage Health.