31 Days of Impact – Day 5, Dr. Amelie Ramirez
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DR. AMELIE RAMIREZ, SAN ANTONIO— Advocate, Scientific Advisor
“My mission, which aligns with that of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is to ensure that Latinos across the world receive timely, high quality cancer treatment, and go on to live long and fruitful lives.”
“Now that cancer has overtaken heart disease as the leading cause of death for Latinos, we really need to step up our research and outreach efforts to fight cancer. Latinos are the largest U.S. minority group, so it is imperative to continue to inform Latinas and all women about what they need to do to maintain breast health and what services are available to them in their community.”
“I hope that we will continue to decrease these disparities so that more survivors can live on to tell their stories.”
As a Latina, I am disheartened by the health disparities in my community – especially when it comes to breast cancer. In fact, breast cancer is the number one cancer killer of Latinas. Latina women have a lower incidence of breast cancer than white women, but are more likely to be diagnosed with larger tumors and late-stage breast cancer. My mission, which aligns with that of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is to ensure that Latinas across the world receive timely, high-quality cancer treatment, and go on to live long and fruitful lives. As a member of the Susan G. Komen Scientific Advisory Board, I am able to make significant contributions to advancing the field of breast cancer research while continuing to further this mission.
Over the past 30 years, I have directed many research programs focused on human and organizational communication to reduce disparities – differences in cancer rates and survival among Latinas. This has been my focus at the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and as the associate director of cancer health disparities at the Cancer Therapy and Research Center. Much of this research has been supported by Susan G. Komen in the form of funds totaling $1.3 million ($950,000 in SAB grants and more than $350,000 in population-specific research program grants in 2000 and 2005), for which I am truly thankful.
I’ve worked with some of the most passionate people, and together we have developed unique health communication models and interventions that have contributed to reducing Latina cancer death rates and increasing Latina screening, clinical trial participation and healthy lifestyles. We even spearheaded the use of bilingual, bicultural navigators – community health workers who help Latinas navigate the complex world of cancer care.
I am certainly proud of these accomplishments but believe we need to continue to inform all women about what they need to do to take care of their breast health and to let them know the services that are available to them in their communities.
Early detection is critical. Only 46.5 percent of Hispanic women age 40 or older are getting yearly mammograms. This means that a woman who hasn’t been screened for breast cancer may not arrive for treatment until their cancers are at late stages, and treatment options are limited.
I am most concerned about access to health care for uninsured and low-income women and this is an area of focus for Susan G. Komen as well. The need is critical in the Latina community: Latinos represent about 19% of the population in the U.S., but account for about 30 percent of the uninsured. Komen is funding programs to get low-income and uninsured women into screening and treatment: we must have doctors open their doors to the great need in this group.
By continuing to educate the Latino community about prevention, timely screening, diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up care, I hope that we will continue to decrease these disparities so that more survivors can live on to tell their stories.
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About the author
Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure®, we have invested more than $1.9 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.