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A New Force in Minority Health - page 28 / 42





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IAMMM Annual Awards Benefit Gala

On September 7, 2004 and September 20, 2005, IAMMM held awards benefit galas to salute individuals who have battled and survived chronic diseases and then taken the extraordinarily generous step of sharing their stories to educate others. Each honoree was presented with an Eagle Fly Free award. “The Eagle Fly Free award is a great tribute to the courage of individuals to overcome their bouts of personal illness, but more important, is a symbol to other people that you, too, can overcome illness; and you, too, can serve as a symbol for others to take personal responsibility and accountability for your health and others” said IAMMM board member, Stan Hull, a senior vice president at GlaxoSmithKline.

As host of the gala, IAMMM aims to create greater awareness of the need for quality health care, using survivors as spokespeople; increase exposure of IAMMM’s mission and objectives; and to engage its strategic partners in an evening of celebration and courage.

All of the honorees are true exemplars who have made significant contributions in the wide range of professions that they represent. Each knows first-hand that disease does not discriminate based on gender, race, religion or economic status. And although illness is intensely personal, they were honored to share their experiences because each time they tell their stories, they are potentially saving a life.

Many of the men were survivors of prostate cancer. Dr. Ben Carson had not been getting tested regularly, but as a physician, he recognized the warning signs and caught the disease in time. Rabbi Frederic Margulies, on the other hand, was getting tested regularly and that is what saved his life because even up until the day of his surgery, he had not exhibited any signs. Senator Edward Brooke overcame a struggle with breast cancer, a disease most men think is unimaginable for them to get. As he said in his remarks, “If you have breast tissue, you can get breast cancer,” and encouraged all males to cast aside their egos and check themselves regularly for lumps.

“I am a three-time cancer survivor. Each time, by the grace of God, early detection and remedy, I’ve had good outcomes. As a nurse by educational preparation and professional background, I know the importance of early detection. Ultimately, it means a better chance at a longer life and perhaps a better quality of life,” said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.). “I applaud IAMMM for being one of the many to lead the charge in promoting equal opportunities in health for all. Everyone must

Institute for the Advancement of Multicultural & Minority Medicine

Saluting Survivors ... Promoting Life

have the same opportunity to receive quality health care, prevention and treatment.”

Getting regular check-ups, recognizing signals and spreading the word to others about the importance of testing and early detection are all keys to survival and were the overarching themes of both events. “We, as a nation must [work to] improve research, increase sensitivity to minorities among health care providers and increase access to the right information,” said honoree Earl G. Graves, chairman and CEO of Earl G. Graves Ltd., and publisher of Black Enterprise magazine. “African- American men owe it to themselves and their loved ones to understand the preventive measures we can take and pursue treatment options as needed. Prostate cancer can be treated if it’s caught early. If I can help even one person take action to prevent this disease or to detect it earlier, this experience [will have been] worthwhile.”

“Each one of us has had a moment of truth when we’ve come face to face with our own mortality,” mused Dennis Hightower in his remarks. He had assumed that his own moment had passed during a stint in the Army, but 27 years later, that hypothesis was challenged to the core when his father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Despite the best of care, he did not survive. Hightower had been undergoing regular screenings, and began getting them every six months following his father’s diagnosis.

Until February 2000, his results were barely recordable, but within six months, they were alarming enough to require an aggressive course of action. Still, Hightower recalls, he allowed other things to take greater precedence. “I had a business to run, investors to satisfy, employees counting on my leadership. My doctor said, ‘This is your life but if you want to be here six months later, you need to make some critical decisions in the next 30 days’.” He did. Now, Hightower says, he is a “poster boy” for screening, encouraging anyone who will listen to take the test.

The annual gala is also a fundraising event to support health education, outreach, health screenings and referrals for minorities and other underserved populations. Major sponsors included GlaxoSmithKline, PhRMA, Abbott Laboratories, Inc., Altria Corporate Services, Inc., Anheuser-Busch-Inc, and the DaimlerChrysler Corporation. Pfizer, Howard University, The Coca- Cola Company, NitroMed, Guidant and the National Minority Health Month Foundation also generously provided support.

2003-2005 AnnuAl RepoRt


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