MIAMI LAKES — A successful Miami real estate agent’s search for a more fulfilling existence and a “purpose-driven life” ended with her “aha” moment when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 45.
But Andrea Ivory realized that the disease was detected early because she had access to doctors and insurance and her purpose in life now was to help women who weren’t as fortunate.
Using her background in real estate, Ivory mapped out neighborhoods and identified homes where families were least likely to have access to health care. She then gathered 20 friends and they knocked on 100 doors in 10 minutes to drop off literature about breast cancer awareness.
Today, volunteers in Ivory’s Women’s Breast Health Initiative in Miami Lakes knock on more than 10,000 doors each year to educate women about breast cancer and early detection and how to receive low-or no-cost mammograms. Since her first outreach campaign, her now 4,000 volunteers have reached more than 40,000 households.
Ivory’s efforts did not go unnoticed. For developing her grassroots education and outreach program for women at risk of breast cancer, she was tapped as one of 10 recipients of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leaders Award.
The award honors exceptional men and women who have overcome significant obstacles to tackle some of the most challenging health and healthcare problems facing their communities. It was presented on Nov. 9 at an awards ceremony in Baltimore.
“The American Cancer Society statistics state that it takes 1,000 mammograms to identify two to four breast cancer diagnoses. Our targeted efforts have diagnosed women at twice the national rate,” Ivory said in a statement released by the foundation.
“We are reaching women who are at higher risk and they tell their friends and family about early detection. Our intervention is not only for the women; it’s for the medical community and the taxpayer. When we detect breast cancer early, it’s better for everyone,” she said.
After conducting outreach in a particular
neighborhood, Ivory’s or-ganization circles back with a mammography van to provide free breast cancer screenings to the women served by her Women’s Breast Health Initiative.
The organization re-ceives no federal, state or local government funding and must pay to bring the mammography van into the neighborhood.
Janice Ford Griffin, director of the Community Health Leaders National Program, said the awards committee picked Ivory for her passion and persistence in saving women’s lives.
“Andrea Ivory’s determination and her creative use of proven marketing techniques have opened the door for expanding education about and prevention of breast cancer, as well as other health issues that have a disproportionate impact on people with the least access to health care. Her effort in engaging and training volunteers also extends and expands the knowledge and skills for detecting breast cancer at its earliest stages,” Griffin said.
Ivory knew she needed to hire someone to recruit volunteers when her friends stopped answering the phone when she called them to volunteer. And that investment paid off. The Women’s Breast Health Initiative has a volunteer coordinator on every college campus in the greater Miami area. A number of classes at local nursing colleges and schools of social work require their students to go door-to-door with the program.
To reach even more women, Ivory has launched b4pink.com to educate them about the importance of healthy eating and exercise and how to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Mayate Cordones, a former reporter who now sits on the board of the Women’s Breast Health Initiative, described Ivory’s work as “nothing short of miraculous.”
“Her vision quickly evolved into a tangible community outreach program uniquely designed to reach uninsured or underserved women, one household at a time,” Cordones said.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has honored more than 190 Community Health Leaders since 1993.
Nominations for the 2012 Community Health Leaders Award can be submitted until Nov. 28, 2011.
For more details, visit communityhealthleaders.org
FACT BOX: Andrea Ivory
Using her background in real estate, Andrea Ivory identified neighborhoods of need, then with 20 friends knocked on 100 doors in 10 minutes to share breast cancer awareness literature.
Volunteers in Ivory’s Women’s Breast Health Initiative knock on more than 10,000 doors each year to educate women about early detection of breast cancer and how to receive low – or reduced cost mammograms.
Since her first outreach campaign, more than 4,000 volunteers have joined her in reaching more than 40,000 households.
Photo: Andrea Ivory