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  • Reflections on Panama


    Guest post by Catherine Oliveros, Regional Director of International, Susan G. Komen for the Cure

    Looking back at the exciting events of last week, I can’t help but feel exhilarated and exhausted all at the same time.  What a week!  We visited three amazing non-government organizations (NGOs) and learned firsthand how they are making a difference for women in Panama.  And the big news of the week was that we were able to provide all three organizations with additional funds, thanks to the Caterpillar Foundation, to help them expand their work and increase their impact.

    Casita de Mausi, who you read about in my first post, offers temporary housing to low-income women who must travel hours and long distances for screening, follow-up care or treatment at the Cancer Center in Panama City.  Thanks to the support from Komen, Casita is opening up 5 beds a month for these women who otherwise would not get the proper follow-up care.  The home has been working with cancer patients for 15 years and has undergone several expansion projects to accommodate the growing need.  Now, it has capacity for up to 30 patients at one time.  Additionally, Casita will now be able to provide Breast Self-Awareness sessions monthly for residents to teach all residents on the importance of screening and specifically, the important of breast self awareness.

    Asociacion Nacional Contra el Cancer or ANCEC has clinics throughout Panama and provides breast and cervical cancer screenings, as well as community education programs.  With CAT funds, ANCEC will now be able to reach more people with messages about the importance of early detection by implementing a new awareness campaign during family friendly sporting events.  Additionally, they will be providing workshops targeting health care providers – physicians, nurses and students – on such topics as the latest breast cancer research, guidelines and best practices in clinical care, as well as new technology in breast cancer and psycho-oncology.

    Our third grant went to FundaAyuda, a leader in breast cancer awareness, to help them expand their work and by launching an intense year-long media campaign, that incorporates traditional as well as social media.  As the founder of FundaAyuda says, women don’t just get cancer in October.  What an amazing group!

    I love my work, because I get to learn everyday from amazing organizations and individuals on a global scale.  I am currently back in Dallas, but not for long.  Later this month we will be announcing another set of Caterpillar grantees in Monterrey, Mexico.  I get to once again spend time with passionate people who are making a difference in their communities.  And as partners, they are helping us expand our global reach.  We will be sure to send you updates from Mexico, as I am sure we will have plenty of stories to share from there as well!


  • Making an Impact in Panama: New Grants Announced

    Guest post by Catherine Oliveros, Regional Director of International, Susan G. Komen for the Cure

    The culmination of our trip to Panama was a special dinner reception where we unveiled $250,000 in new investments in the country.  The grants are the first of a three-year $2 million partnership with the Caterpillar Foundation to increase breast cancer awareness and improve screening and early detection outcomes in low-resource communities in Latin America.  Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death among women in Panama.

    We were also honored to be joined at the dinner by the First Lady of Panama, Marta de Martinelli, who discussed how proud she was of the work happening in Panama and thanked Komen and Caterpillar for our commitment to the country. Our President Elizabeth Thompson provided an overview of our work in the area, as well as the rest of Latin America, and noted that this announcement came on the anniversary of Suzie’s death.  Carlos Caetano, representing our friends from Caterpillar highlighted the importance of our partnership and how meaningful this work was to Caterpillar.

    The new grants were awarded to local NGOs Fundacian Casita de Mausi, FundAyuda and Association National Contra el Cancer, and will support public education campaigns, breast self-awareness training, training for medical practitioners and infrastructure improvements, with the goal of increasing screening rates and ultimately, saving lives.


  • Making an Impact in Panama: Day 2

    Panama Day 2 - Roundtable

    Guest post by Catherine Oliveros, Regional Director of International, Susan G. Komen for the Cure

    Our visit to Panama continues to help us better understand the challenges they face throughout the continuum of care.  The conversations we are having with local experts this week will help inform the direction Susan G. Komen must take to support education and awareness programs in this country through our grants, research and advocacy initiatives.

    On Day 2 we convened local government officials, private institutions and non-government organizations for a series of roundtables to talk about the state of breast cancer in Panama.  Our first discussion centered on the specific difficulties of addressing awareness, prevention and treatment of breast cancer in Panama.  We had a great open discussion about the challenges, as well as the current efforts underway in the country.  Participants set the stage for future partnerships and laid the groundwork for Komen to lead the work necessary to engage in advocacy at the local level in order to drive change nationally.

    Another highlight of the day was when our president, Elizabeth Thompson, was interviewed by the Panamanian newspaper La Prensa.  Liz was asked how she leveraged her background and experience in science and communications to lead the world’s largest grassroots organization working to decrease breast cancer mortality on a global scale.  She also discussed how Komen is attempting to make an impact on the disease through our research and our global strategy, including the success of the Global Initiative for Breast Cancer Awareness in Panama.

    Following the roundtable, we held a celebration luncheon for our newest partners in the region – more on that later.  This provided an opportunity for everyone to network, learn about what we have planned in Panama in the next year.  The luncheon also provided an informal venue for Komen to orientate grantees on policies and procedures, monitoring and evaluation and technical assistance opportunities.

    This has been a great trip so far, and we look forward to sharing our big news soon.

    Catherine Oliveros
    Regional Director of International


  • A Bittersweet Day

    Suzy and Nancy G. BrinkerToday, August 4th, is the one day of the year that I celebrate and mourn. This is the day Suzy died in my mother’s arms thirty-one years ago. When I reflect on the depth and breadth of the work the Susan G. Komen organization and our extended family have accomplished each and every day since that time, I am overcome with pride and celebration of the lives we have saved together.  The grief and loneliness from the untimely death of a loved one is hard for all of us to live through, but I am comforted that our collective efforts have made an incredible difference in the lives of so many.

    I want to thank everyone in the Komen family for the passion, the love and the hard work that you have poured into our mission. We have the boldest community of survivors and supporters that year after year have helped us make a big impact on the lives of others.  I cannot help but believe that Suzy would be so proud that her name still sits atop our incredible organization and so happy her life and the promise she asked me to make is shared by so many.


  • Making an Impact in Panama

    Guest post by Catherine Oliveros, Regional Director of International, Susan G. Komen for the Cure

    I write from Panama, where Susan G. Komen President Elizabeth Thompson and I have traveled to meet with our in-country Komen team and with our partners, new and old, who are making a real difference in the lives of women in this country.  Later this week we will have some exciting news about how we are going to be able to help three new NGO partners.

    Today, though, we got to see firsthand what one of them – Casita de Mausi – is doing to help local women.  Casita is a home for cancer patients receiving treatment at the Instituto Oncologico Nacional (ION), their National Cancer Institute.  The patients range in age, some as young as 18, and type of cancer diagnosis – breast cancer being common for women, while stomach and prostate are for men.  They are often low income and uninsured. Yet all patients and one family companion can expect to receive at least a 3 day stay with a clean comfortable bed, 3 meals a day, social support and lots of love from the staff of the home. These patients travel hours and sometimes days to get care at the ION since they can’t receive treatment anywhere else.  The support from Casita enables them to complete their treatment.

    While there we did not see patients, as the home in the morning is usually empty for cleaning because patients are usually at the hospital early and new patients usually arrive in the late afternoon, we still had an amazing experience.  Walking into the home we immediately got a sense of the peace it provides its residents.  We met with the incredible Casita staff and immediately recognized how this happy and warm group could clearly make residents feel comfortable and at “home” during a difficult period of their life.  The staff work hard to give hope and provide safety to the people who walk in and out on a daily basis.

    Casita continues to dream. On their current wish list is a new stove, because the current one is in danger of burning the place down it is so old and damaged.  They also need a car or minivan to help them transport patients, as well as facilitate the process of picking up donations.  And of course, they would like to be able to help more people.