We are very happy to introduce you to Leslie Riddle, who is joining the Breast Cancer Action staff as our Program Officer.
I’ve been involved in public health in various capacities for the better part of the last decade. I previously worked for a feminist health collective, providing screenings, counseling and education in sexual and reproductive health. The organization I worked for really helped empower people to be active participants in their health. When I learned of Breast Cancer Action, I immediately felt that they were a kindred spirit as patient advocates honoring people’s lived experiences and demanding accountable healthcare.
Before joining BCAction, I completed a Master of Public Health program in Global Health with a focus in sexual and reproductive health from Emory University. My thesis research explored factors influencing breast and cervical cancer treatment for enrollees of the Georgia Women’s Health Medicaid program. In doing this work, I realized that while breast cancer has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S., it often remains absent from the larger discourse on women’s health. We need to move beyond the simplistic message of routine mammography screening to incorporate broader issues such as healthcare access and biases in breast cancer care. I am excited to continue learning about breast cancer in my work on BCAction’s screening, diagnosis and treatment priority area.
What most inspires/excites you about BCAction’s work?
I love that BCAction is a grassroots organization of fierce women who understand that breast cancer is a social justice issue and advocate to put patients before profits. Storytelling can be a powerful tool for social change and it’s great to see BCAction elevate the voices of real people concerned about and living with breast cancer. I also appreciate that this organization addresses the root causes of breast cancer by going beyond individual responsibility and examining how policies, institutions and the built environment contribute to the disease. I’m inspired by BCAction’s proven track record of effecting change at the systems level, as with the landmark U.S Supreme Court case invalidating corporate patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. There is no other organization doing what BCAction does and it fills a much needed role in the breast cancer movement.
What are you looking forward to working on/what do you think are the most pressing things in breast cancer?
I’m looking forward to researching evolving areas relevant to BCAction’s work, such as precision medicine and new treatment developments, to inform our educational programs and resources. I’m also excited about collaborating with other groups doing work in women’s health, patient and consumer advocacy, and environmental justice, among others that will help us understand how these issues intersect and how we can build up each other’s work. I think the most pressing issue is to identify where the gaps in research lie so that people have the information they need to make informed choices about their health. It’s also critical that we address disparities in breast cancer screening, treatment and mortality that stem from social inequities in our society. For example, black women die at higher rates from the disease than their white counterparts. Continuing to prioritize research on who is affected – and how and why – will allow us to push for evidence-based policies to improve the health and wellbeing of those at risk of and living with breast cancer.