Memphis, Tenn. — Loretta Hill, a five-year survivor of breast cancer, was the guest speaker recently at a University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) campus reception for the “Live! Just as We Are” exhibition of photos of African-American breast cancer survivors from West Tennessee. Hill, whose portrait is in the exhibition, spoke candidly of coping with the disease, and of the importance of support from family, friends and health care workers.
Convened by UTHSC in 2014, the LIVE! Coalition, a Breast Cancer Awareness and Action group, includes roughly a dozen grassroots, health care and community organizations. The coalition created the photo exhibition to emphasize the need for black women to take charge of their breast health. Last February, the LIVE! Coalition mounted the photo exhibit in conjunction with a half-day summit, which brought more than 500 African-American women to the UTHSC campus to educate, support and encourage them to get the health education, screening and treatment they need to battle the disease.
The LIVE! Coalition will host its second annual summit on Saturday, February 6, 2016. For details on the time and location for the summit, follow LIVE! at: www.facebook.com/LiveJustAsWeAre or on Twitter at: www.twitter.com/just_ar1.
The disparity in breast cancer detection, treatment and survival of black women in Memphis has been well documented in a number of research studies. Black women are the population that discovers the disease much later and dies from it much earlier than any other group.
“Not only is African-American breast cancer mortality two and a half times higher than Shelby County and the surrounding four counties, Memphis has had the unique distinction of having the highest African-American breast cancer mortality rates in the United States for the last 20 years running,” Thelma C. Hurd, MD, told LIVE! Summit participants earlier this year. Dr. Hurd, associate professor of Surgery and clinical assistant professor in the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, served as the keynote speaker for the inaugural LIVE! Summit.
“Breast cancer is an illness that doesn’t have to be the illness that it is,” Congressman Steve Cohen told the group. “If you get preventive care, get your mammograms…get treatment — if you get diagnosed, but not enough people do. In Memphis, unfortunately, the disparity in breast cancer morbidity, death from breast cancer, among African-Americans compared to their Caucasian counterparts in the same region here in Memphis is the greatest of anywhere in the country. That’s not genetics. That’s not having access to health care and not using the access that we have.”
Memphis-area women who are breast cancer survivors and who want their images added to the “LIVE! Just As We Are” exhibit should mark Thursday, November 5, and Tuesday, December 8, on their calendars. Thurman Hobson, Jr., the UTHSC photographer who took all 80 of the current exhibit portraits, will be photographing additional survivors from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the UTHSC Student-Alumni Center, 800 Madison Avenue in the Sam Sanders Room on the third floor. A digital, traveling display of the expanding photo exhibit is planned.
Members of the LIVE! Coalition include: The University of Tennessee Health Science Center; Baptist Cancer Center; West Cancer Center; Common Table Health Alliance; Baylor College of Medicine/Intercultural Cancer Council; Carin’ and Sharin’ Breast Cancer Education and Support Group; Church Health Center; Community Action Team of Shelby County; Community Health Advisor/American Cancer Society; Faith and Health Division of Methodist Healthcare; Seeds -2- Life, Inc.; Sheats Endodontics Group; Shelby County (TN), The Links, Incorporated; Sisters Network Memphis Chapter; Surviving, Thriving, African-Americans Rallying Support Group (STAARS); Tennessee Cancer Coalition; Tennessee Department of Health, Office of Minority Health and Disparities Elimination; Tennessee Men’s Health Network, and Woodcuts Gallery and Framing in Nashville.
As Tennessee’s only public, statewide, academic health system, the mission of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) is to bring the benefits of the health sciences to the achievement and maintenance of human health, with a focus on the citizens of Tennessee and the region, by pursuing an integrated program of education, research, clinical care, and public service. Offering a broad range of postgraduate and selected baccalaureate training opportunities, the main UTHSC campus is located in Memphis and includes six colleges: Dentistry, Graduate Health Sciences, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. UTHSC also educates and trains cohorts of medicine, pharmacy and/or health professions students — in addition to medical residents and fellows — at its major sites in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville. Founded in 1911, during its more than 100 years, UT Health Science Center has educated and trained more than 57,000 health care professionals in academic settings and health care facilities across the state. For more information, visit www.uthsc.edu. Follow us on Facebook: facebook.com/uthsc, on Twitter: twitter.com/uthsc and on Instagram: instagram.com/uthsc.
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