Next Meeting to Focus on Men’s Health & Black History Month, on Feb. 15 at 6:30pm

(L-R) Tyra Hopper, Nathaly Gonzalez, Rhonda Hamilton, Patient Navigators/Community Outreach Coordinator, Georgetown University/Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. Courtesy of Thelma D. Jones.

By Southwester Staff

The Thelma D. Jones Breast Cancer Fund (TDJBCF) New Year’s breast cancer support group celebration held on Wednesday, January 18 was emceed by Dr. Alejandra Hurtado de Mendoza, Assistant Professor of Oncology at Georgetown University and a researcher at the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center (GLCCC). Dr. Hurtado de Mendoza reminded the audience that the January meeting sets the tone for the year’s meetings. Back by popular demand, the meeting featured guest speaker Kristen Berset-Harris, host of WUSA9’s Great Day Washington and two-time breast cancer survivor. Berset-Harris courageously shared her breast cancer story and left an indelible impression on the audience about the importance of early detection to save lives and being an advocate for your health.  Her  inspiring talk was followed by a robust question and answer session. True to form, the bar was high, and the audience felt the vibes in anticipation of similar meetings to follow along with the thought of knowing that Berset-Harris had agreed to return. 

Another special feature of the meeting included the long-standing partnership between TDJBCF and the GLCCC which Dr. Hurtado de Mendoza summarized. TDJBCF has served as an essential partner to researchers and clinicians at GLCCC since 2015. One recent study, The Achieving Cancer Equity through Identification, Testing and Screening (ACE-ITS), focused on expanding rates of mammography maintenance and expanding access to cancer genetic services. This study, co-led by Drs. Chiranjeev Dash and Suzanne O’Neill, resulted in a paper recently published in Cancer, the journal of the American Cancer Society, as well as a presentation at annual Conference on the Science of Dissemination and Implementation in Health, which was held in December 2022 in Washington, DC. 

The TDJBCF has partnered with Dr. Hurtado de Mendoza on several projects. One included the impact of Covid-19 on Latina and African American breast cancer survivors, exemplifying how the TDJBCF and GLCCC partnered to address the pressing needs of breast cancer survivors during the Covid-19 pandemic. Co-led by Dr. Simina Boca and Dr. Hurtado de Mendoza in collaboration with the TDJBCF, this grant aimed to develop a culturally sensitive website to provide information about Covid-19 for breast cancer survivors. The contributions of Ms. Jones and Ms. Jacqueline Beale, a breast cancer advocate and survivor and former TDJBCF board member, were key in all the phases of the project from the conceptualization of the grant to the development and dissemination of the website. Findings were presented at the Advancing the Science of Cancer in Latinos in February 2022 in San Antonio, the International Cancer Education Conference in 2022 in Maryland, and the TDJBCF support group. 

Additional recent partnerships of the TDJBCF and GLCCC investigators includes the Acupressure Pilot Study and Sisters Informing Sisters (SIS). The Acupressure Pilot Study, led by Drs. Judy Wang and Kristi Graves, is testing an approach to improve quality of life for breast cancer survivors, building on prior work by Dr. Wang. Ms. Jones provided feedback on the overall concept prior to the submission of the funding proposal and connected the study team with Ms. Beale. Ms. Beale has practiced and benefitted from self-acupressure and provided a testimonial in the study video.

The Sisters Informing Sisters (SIS) study is led by Dr. Vanessa Sheppard of Virginia Commonwealth University. GLCCC investigators serve as partners for this work and as a recruitment site. This study is testing a peer-led survivor coach intervention to improve care and to empower newly diagnosed Black/African American women with breast cancer to make informed decisions about their treatment options. Ms. Jones and Ms. Beale have participated as peer survivor coaches in the study, bringing their lifelong experience supporting breast cancer survivors to this work. 

All of these studies reflect TDJBCF and GLCCC working together to achieve a common goal of reducing the incidence and mortality rates of breast cancer—locally, nationally and globally—and the work that can result from combining efforts and expertise of cancer researchers with an ambitious and respected grassroots organization.

The meeting was chocked full of more speakers, information and celebratory messages, including community updates, the impact of chemical exposure on breast health, and the announcement about Team Undaunted Determination reaching the $100,000 mark for fundraising for the American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer which can be seen in its entirety by visiting The celebration wrapped up with emcee Dr. Hurtado de Mendoza providing a PSA on Covid 19 and well wishes for 2023. However, the surprising finale came when Berset-Harris shared a recent interview and performance with vocalist and songwriter Cecily Bumbray, a former Southwest resident who has performed numerous times at the TDJBCF support group meetings. Cecily performed the following night to a packed audience at Blues Alley and the TDJBCF was there to support her. 

Living up to its reputation of great meetings, the TDJBCF’s February support group meeting on Wednesday, February 15, at 6:30 pm via Zoom is slated to be a chart topper. Each year in honor of Black History Month the TDJBCF features breast cancer in men and men’s health, including behavioral health. Emceed by  Austin L. Hollimon, Managing Editor, Howard Law Journal, Vol. 66, J.D. Candidate, Class of 2023, Howard University School of Law, the bar is set high for the meeting. TDJBCF Founder Jones and Hollimon met at Blues Alley during Cecily’s recent performance. In addition, guest speakers will include Clinton D. Burnside, MPH, “Men Take Ten”, Howard University Cancer Center, and Dr. Kermit A. Crawford, PhD,  Emeritus Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine. Dr. Crawford, a high school classmate of TDJBCF Founder Jones, has spoken at the support group meetings three times previously. So, mark your calendar and attend! For more information on the meeting, please email or call (202) 251-1639.

Suzanne C. O’Neill, PhD, Professor of Oncology, Georgetown University, Co-Director, CPaS Postdoctoral Training  Program, Master’s in Epidemiology-Social and Behavioral Concentration Leader, contributed to this article. 

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