31 Days of Impact – Day 10, Etta-Cheri Washington

The story of breast cancer is the story of people. Learn about Komen’s impact and work in the fight against breast cancer as told through the eyes of breast cancer survivors, researchers, community health workers and advocates. Read more stories.

ETTA-CHERI WASHINGTON, WASHINGTON, D.C. – Patient Navigator, Pink Diva

“I have made it our mission to start a ripple effect among the women of Ward 8”

“I’ve realized the impact empowering one woman can have on an entire community”

“With your support, we can save lives, Diva to Diva!”

As a Washington, D.C. native, I have always been directly aware of the high rate of breast cancer afflicting the district’s women – nearly 10% higher than the national average.  There is a need to reach out to these women as they often do not receive the same access to care available to others. In 2009, I began my journey as a Patient Navigator at Capital City Area Health Education Center (AHEC) and set out to save the lives of women in our nation’s capital by connecting them to medical and educational resources. I hoped from the beginning that my work would change lives but as it turns out, my very first patient, Ms. Valerie Holtz, changed mine.  Valerie’s moving story and determination to battle her cancer with the best care possible truly opened my eyes to the value of patient education and empowerment.

Like many other women living in Wards 7 & 8 in the District of Columbia, Valerie had little to no access to health care, faced discrimination and a tremendous lack of resources. Over the months while I navigated Valerie through the continuum of care – educating her on the health care system, finding a medical home and culturally competent care – I realized the impact empowering one woman can have on an entire community. Inspired by Valerie, and with the aid of a $200,000 grant from Susan G. Komen for the Cure, our team of navigators at Capital City AHEC took our initiative to the next level and created the DC Pink Divas.

The DC Pink Divas Program provides hope to women who feel they have no one to turn to for answers and support. It began as a program that encouraged women to educate their friends and family about breast cancer detection, and empowered those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer – now with the help of the Susan G. Komen grant, we have expanded our City-Wide Patient Navigation Network to reach out to more than 3,000 women in one of the most underserved communities in the country. The DC Pink Divas and I have made it our mission to start a ripple effect among the women of Ward 8 by empowering sisters to recognize their needs, educating them so they can take action and plan breast cancer prevention activities, and impacting them enough so they venture out on their own and share their knowledge with others.

Each year our team of Divas participates in the Susan G. Komen Global Race for the Cure in order to continue raising the funds (of which 75% supports local breast cancer education, screening and treatment programs throughout the National Capital Area) necessary to expand our network and touch more lives. I am dedicated to continuing this tradition of bringing together people from all walks of life so that together, we can save lives, Diva to Diva!

Read other impact stories here.

About the author

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Susan G. Komen has written 284 articles for Susan G. Komen® | Blog

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.