By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
Susan G. Komen South Florida is aiming to educate more women about their breast health in communities that are at the most risk for aggressive forms of breast cancer.
It is doing so with a newly created position, the Breast Health Navigator, located in Delray Beach.
African American breast cancer survivor Melissa Dixon was tapped for the role, which involves creating relationships and partnerships with Delray community members and groups to help bring educational resources to residents and ultimately reduce breast cancer disparity for women of color.
The position is one of the first of its kind and will help support the new Community-Based Breast Health Navigator Pilot Program for the global Susan G. Komen organization.
“Melissa is uniquely qualified to lead this new pilot program for Susan G. Komen as a survivor and as a women’s healthcare professional with an exceptionally compassionate nature,” said Kate Watt, Susan G. Komen South Florida Executive Director. “She understands the importance of grassroots education, culture, and trust to ensure women get the life-saving care they need to help us reduce disparities.”
The position is funded through the Quantum Foundation and the new Susan G. Komen South Florida “Promise Fund.” The fund was established at the Community Foundation of Palm Beach and Martin Counties by Susan G. Komen’s sister, Nancy Brinker, and Julie Fisher Cummings and Laurie Silvers to respond to the growing healthcare crisis for women in Florida.
Dixon can be found out and about in the Delray community dispelling myths, hosting educational sessions and breaking cultural barriers. Rather than a stuffy hospital setting, she will get into local gathering places to help women overcome any hurdles that may be preventing them from seeking preventative care.
She said Delray was selected because of the number of African American women who live in the city and are in need. According to the U.S. Census, 8,654 African American women reside in the area, 26 percent of the total population lives in poverty, 11,153 individuals lack health coverage and 24,602 have public health benefits.
Dixon said African American women are at greater risk for triple negative breast cancer—an aggressive form of the disease—and have a 40 percent higher mortality rate than white women.
It was when she was going through chemotherapy that she said she realized she wanted to jump back into the workforce and help other women.
“I am an overachiever and I was bored when I was going through chemo,” she said. “I wanted to help other women.”
Dixon is no stranger to helping educate women about access to health. She was a Breast Health Educator for Planned Parenthood, a position that was actually funded by a Komen grant.
When that grant ended, she transitioned into a new role at Planned Parenthood where she helped women enroll in Obamacare and other trajectories dealing with access to healthcare for women.
Then, she was offered the role of Navigator.
“I was excited to come back and do this and fulfill this mission,” she said.