by Carly Ann Winter
The Tigerlily Foundation was founded by Maimah Karmo in 2007 following her diagnosis of breast cancer at the age of 32. As a cancer survivor, she had the vision to pay it forward to end disparities in age, stage and color. Maimah’s message to other women is simple: “You don’t have to live your life overcome by fear or uncertainty after being diagnosed with cancer or feel as if your hands are tied, because I have created a path for you.”
Through the Advocate Now to Grow, Empower, and Lead (ANGEL) Training Program, women of color who are ages 21 to 50 are trained to become breast cancer advocates for members of the Black community. This growing program focuses on recruiting advocates from cities across the United States where breast cancer death rates are highest for women of color, including Philadelphia and New Orleans, among others. Last year, 100 women from 20 cities were involved in this initiative, and the program’s goal is to grow to 300 advocates this year. ANGELs become experts in breast cancer care and have extensive knowledge and experience of the barriers that stand in the way of Black women receiving equitable care. They meet with policymakers, speak at conferences, share breast cancer information via social media, and partner with researchers to ensure their race is being represented throughout the breast cancer community. These women of color are leaders. They share the stage with some of the best doctors in the world, talking about equity and diversity in clinical trials. Maimah’s firsthand experience speaks to the inspirational aspects of this role. Some trainees have changed their careers because they find this advocacy work so meaningful. Information about the Tigerlily ANGEL Advocate program is available here: Form (hsforms.com).
The Tigerlily Foundation has also launched an initiative to include stakeholders in an international effort to create solutions that will address health disparities for Black women. FORCE is one of the many organizations that have signed their Inclusion Pledge to take specific actions to address systemic racism in healthcare. Over 12,000 stakeholders have signed the Inclusion Pledge. The Tigerlily Foundation believes that in learning from the experiences of underserved patients, we can commit to change and make adjustments that will lead to equitable treatment for all.
The Tigerlily Foundation has been a partner to FORCE since 2014, when they joined our steering committee to help guide development of the XRAY Program. Tigerlily continues to work closely with FORCE by sharing XRAY reviews and participating in FORCE’s annual conference. Maimah credits FORCE leaders for giving her advice to pursue her ideas.