Alan Berch Hollingsworth, M.D. is a breast cancer specialist with a focus on predictive medicine – that is, risk analysis and genetic testing to identify those individuals at high risk who are more likely to benefit from available interventions. He received his M.D. with Distinction in 1975 from the University of Oklahoma where he was also named First Vice-president of Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society. During his surgical training at OU, he spent one year as a fellow in anatomic pathology at UCLA (1977-78) during the launch of the concept of “premalignant” changes in benign breast biopsies. Almost four decades later, his interest in identifying individuals at high risk for breast cancer while outlining strategies to lower risk, or better assure early detection through multi-modality imaging, now occupies his entire medical practice.
To improve upon how we select patients for screening ultrasound or breast MRI, he has spent over 20 years working with researchers in the development of a blood test to detect breast cancer, currently helping to bring a candidate test from Provista Diagnostics into the clinic. More recently, he has been collaborating with computer scientists at the University of Oklahoma in the analysis of mammograms interpreted as negative but where occult cancer is likely (under a 5-year, $2.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute, with co-investigators Dr. Bin Zheng and Dr. Hong Liu).
Dr. Hollingsworth was the founding Medical Director of the University of Oklahoma Institute for Breast Health and was later named as the first Holder of the G. Rainey Williams Chair of Surgical Breast Oncology. He started one of the first formal risk assessment programs in the United States in 1993, and his program was then selected in the first round of sites accredited by the American Cancer Society for BRCA gene testing when it became available in 1996.
In 1999, he assumed his current position at Mercy Hospital—OKC where he serves as Medical Director of Mercy Breast Center, a screening and diagnostic facility with a special focus on breast MRI, with Dr. Rebecca Stough serving as Clinical Director. Shortly after his arrival at Mercy, he published the first lay text on breast cancer risk assessment that led to his appointment as lead author and editor for a national working group sponsored by what was then called the Susan G. Komen Foundation. In 2006, he became the first non-radiologist in the U.S. to present data in a national forum that supported screening high-risk women with breast MRI when he addressed the general assembly of the American Society of Breast Disease.
A great deal of Dr. Hollingsworth’s time is now spent on scientific writing, that is, publishing original articles, writing invited editorial responses, serving on the Editorial Board of The Breast Journal, and author of the opening chapter on “Risk Assessment” in a new breast cancer text – Breast Cancer: A New Era in Management (Springer Publishing, hardcover, 2014, editors: Francescatti and Silverstein). In 2016, he served as sole author of a new book that gives the history of mammographic screening, explaining the origin of current controversies and, at the same time, offering the rationale as to why we should be doing more screening, not less (as has been the recent fashion) – Mammography and Early Breast Cancer Detection: How Screening Saves Lives (McFarland Publishing; Jefferson, NC).
In 2001, however, his writing focus took a temporary detour with publication of Flatbellies (hardcover, Sleeping Bear Press, Chelsea, MI; softcover, W.W. Norton & Co., New York/London), a coming of age novel set in small town Oklahoma where a high school golf team vies for the state championship. A surprise hit in golfing circles initially, then general fiction readers later on, Flatbellies was named as one of Barnes and Noble’s “Hot Books for the Summer,” and one year later, was selected by a panel of 12 East Coast sportswriters as “One of the Top Ten Golf Books of All Time,” published in the Washington Times. The book has been optioned for film by various agencies ever since its publication. A sequel was requested by the publisher, so “A. B. Hollingsworth” wrote University Boulevard (2003, W.W. Norton and Co.), the story of the boys as they attend college in the turbulent 60s.
Killing Albert Berch is Hollingsworth’s first effort at non-medical non-fiction, a combination of investigative journalism and memoir. “I’m essentially the detective working on my grandfather’s murder, but arriving at the scene of the crime 90 years after the fact,” says Hollingsworth.