Advocate for underserved to speak at Ingalls' breast cancer forum

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Experience speaks: Gail Briggs, a breast cancer survivor from South Holland and the clinical director for the Healthcare Consortium of Illinois, educates women on several health-care issues, including breast cancer. | Supplied photo

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Since her diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer four years ago, 51-year-old Gail Briggs of South Holland has been on a mission to educate others about the importance of regular breast care.

Not only does the energetic registered nurse tout annual mammograms and monthly breast self-exams, she’s also become an advocate for underserved women.

“I lost my job right after I completed my treatment,” she said, “and it can be a scary time.”

Briggs, who now is the clinical director for the Healthcare Consortium of Illinois, spends her time educating women about a host of health-care issues, including breast cancer.

“I’ve always had the desire to help someone going through treatment,” she said.

Whether it’s finding resources to assist women in treatment with paying for a bill or helping to locate free or low-cost breast screenings, Briggs is a champion for those without the means to pay for vital health-care services.

“It’s so important to have regular mammograms and perform breast self-exams,” she explained. “If anything feels strange or different, or if you feel tingling or pain, see a doctor right away. I had shooting pains and ignored them.”

Briggs, who was treated for Stage II in situ ductal carcinoma, will be sharing her experiences with breast cancer and how to prevent it at the 13th annual Conquering Breast Cancer Forum from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Matteson Holiday Inn, 500 Holiday Plaza Drive, Matteson. The forum is sponsored by Ingalls Health System, the SouthtownStar and the Southland Coalition to Conquer Breast Cancer, and focuses on medical and cultural issues surrounding breast cancer in the African-American community.

“It’s so important to do everything you can to reduce your risk, including eating nutritious foods and exercising,” she added.

Relevant health information

Sponsored by Ingalls Memorial Hospital, The Southland Coalition to Conquer Breast Cancer and the SouthtownStar newspaper, the Conquering Breast Cancer Forum is a freeeducational awareness event that features oncology experts whose topics focus on medical and cultural issues surrounding breast cancer in the African-American community.

Valuable and relevant health information is also provided via display booths, along with touching stories from breast cancer survivors. Refreshments will be served along with many door prizes. Vendor displays are open until 2 p.m.

The emcee for this year’s event is Windy City Live co-host Val Warner. Speakers include Olufunmilayo Falusi Olopade, M.D., F.A.C.P., distinguished professor of medicine and associate dean for Global Health at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Dr. Olopade, who has received numerous honors and awards for her research and clinical work, has a special interest in women of African descent who are at higher risk for more aggressive forms of breast cancer. She was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the National Cancer Advisory Board, the highest-level board that oversees the activities of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). In her role, Dr. Olopade shapes the national cancer program and the investments made by the NCI.

Also speaking at this year’s forum is Lisa Green, D.O. M.P.H., family medicine specialist and chief executive officer of Family Christian Health Center. As the center’s co-founder, Dr. Green has made significant contributions in the area of under-represented and underserved communities. Under her leadership, Family Christian Health Center now serves more than 20,000 patients and provides over 85,000 patient visits annually.

Conquering Breast Cancer Forum is open to the public. The information presented is appropriate for women as young as 16.

For more information or to register for the Forum, call (708) 915.6838 or go to www.Ingalls.org/Forum.

Provided by Ingalls Health System