University of New Mexico Cancer Center scientist Dr. Barbara Damron recently won the prestigious C-Change Comprehensive Cancer Control Champion Award. The award honors Damron’s outstanding career in cancer treatment and research and her passion for saving lives from the ravages of cancer.
“I’ve been in oncology for 30 years,” Damron says. “I’ve worked in end-of-life care, I’ve worked in survivorship, and I’ve worked in treatment as an advanced practice nurse and clinician for more than 15 years. Now I’m focused on prevention. We’ll be able to save more lives by putting more emphasis on prevention.”
Cancer can affect anyone. In the United States, men have an almost 1 in 2 chance of developing cancer in their lifetimes and women have just over a 1 in 3 chance, according to the American Cancer Society. Cancer is also the most costly disease. In 2008, Americans spent more than $77 million in cancer treatment alone, not including other impacts such as lost productivity.
To fight cancer as a major public health issue, every state has formed its own group. Damron helped to create the Texas Cancer Council. Then she helped to create the New Mexico Cancer Council when she moved here in 1999. She has been an active member of the New Mexico Cancer Council since.
The New Mexico Cancer Council brings together individuals, agencies, businesses and community groups — any entity with an interest in fighting cancer in New Mexico. It develops a five-year plan which defines what the state should do to help people prevent cancer or get care. “We don’t provide the access [to care] itself but we facilitate the access to it,” says Damron. The plan covers all aspects of cancer, including education, planning, research and advocacy from prevention to treatment to end-of-life and survivorship.
The state cancer groups align their efforts through C-Change. “All the voices at the state level help inform the voice at the federal level,” explains Damron. C-Change began awarding its Comprehensive Cancer Control Awards only in the last 4 years to foster state-level efforts.
The award helps Damron to raise awareness of how the New Mexico Cancer Council helps all New Mexicans. “We are so rural in this state,” she says. “We [the New Mexico Cancer Council] are the only connection to cancer education many times. So, I want the people in New Mexico to have the education because we can save lives that way.”
But for Damron personally, the award is a strong reminder of why she chose the career she did. Through tears she explains, “This award is in honor of the patients. I’ve had over 100 patients die in my arms. I’ve learned about life through them. So, for all those patients who died, and their fight, this award is for them.”
About Barbara Damron, RN, PhD, FAAN
Damron is an associate professor at the University of New Mexico (UNM) College of Nursing and teaches health policy at the doctoral level with the UNM College of Nursing Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nursing and Health Policy Collaborative. She also developed and is director of the Office of Community Partnerships and Cancer Health Disparities at the University of New Mexico Cancer Center, the only NCI-Designated Cancer Center in New Mexico. Under her leadership, over 12,000 New Mexico underserved minority community members are provided cancer education, screening and referral services on an annual basis. Damron also conducts community based participatory research through her office, and is currently funded by the National Cancer Institute, UNM Institutional Grants, and private foundations.
About the New Mexico Cancer Council
The New Mexico Cancer Council is a collaborative effort of diverse public and private partners working together to attack cancer in New Mexico through the development, implementation and evaluation of the New Mexico Cancer Plan. The council's goal is to increase access to information, prevention and treatment using innovative and effective programs and policies thus reducing the human and economic burden of cancer and improving the outcomes and quality of life for New Mexicans.
Learn more at http://nmcancercouncil.org/.
Founded in 1998, C-Change is the only organization that assembles key cancer leaders from the three sectors — private, public, and not-for-profit — and from across the cancer continuum — prevention, early detection, treatment and quality of life. The organization's mission is to eliminate cancer as a major public health problem at the earliest possible time by leveraging the expertise and resources of our unique multi-sector membership.
Learn more at http://c-changetogether.org/.