Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Love isn’t all that is blind

So is cancer…but so is conviction.

I had the pleasure of attending a reception this week at the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Annual Mission Conference. Per my expectations, the bustling room was filled with brave survivors, accomplished scientists, and visionary activists fully accessorized with their pink ribbons. What I was not expecting was the diversity of participants that crossed age brackets, races, and geographies.

Based on data from the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among almost every racial and ethnic group. Women of African American, Hispanic, Asian American, and American Indian descent were there to reaffirm the Susan G. Komen for the Cure vision and lead their charge in advising the organization with respect to these particular populations. I also made the acquaintance of women who traveled thousands of miles from Jordan and the United Arab Emirates to represent The Middle East Partnership. This is the first partnership for breast cancer between the United States and the Middle East in efforts to build capacity, raise awareness, and increase collaborative research within the region. Finally, I was taken by the youth of some of the participants. Although less than 5 percent of all breast cancer cases occur in women under age 40, I met women as young as 21 who were cancer survivors themselves. They were energized to strengthen disease awareness and promote prevention initiatives among their peers.

Was the attendance of these groups a dismal indication of the far-reaching prevalence of the disease and cancer’s blindness to ethnicity, generation, or continental border? Perhaps to some. But to me, their participation was the manifestation of a greater conviction -- that a unified, cross-cultural, and comprehensive approach to awareness, prevention, screening, treatment, research, and empowerment could bring about great change. And that well-coordinated, global and multi-generational efforts could bring about both a stronger fight and faster cure.

Melissa Stevens, Director of Special Projects, FasterCures

Melissa Stevens joined FasterCures in June 2007 as Director of Special Projects and Interim Project Director for the Philanthropy Advisory Service initiative. She comes to FasterCures from PricewaterhouseCoopers where, as a Manager in their Health Sciences Advisory Practice, she lead large teams in providing strategic, operational, and business planning services to commercial and federal clients across the healthcare continuum.

Melissa has served academic medical centers, private research institutes, and large health systems in developing strategies for implementing clinical and translational research programs, designing conceptual models for collaboration, and assessing infrastructure to support research enterprises. Melissa received both her B.S. in Biochemistry and her M.B.A. from the Pennsylvania State University.

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