By Kira Jones, Communications Manager

Our all-volunteer Board of Directors is a remarkable group of people who set the vision for Breast Cancer Action and lead the organization by determining organizational policy, assuring the organization’s financial security, and representing Breast Cancer Action’s views to the world at large. In April 2018, we welcomed Paris AJ (Adkins-Jackson), Mary Ann Burg, and Coco Villaluz to our Board of Directors and are excited to introduce you to them. For information about our Board of Directors, click here

Welcome to new Board member Paris AJ (Adkins-Jackson), Ph.D. M.P.H.

Dr. AJ is a community-based multidisciplinary researcher whose work seeks to increase quality of life for underserved communities through mixed methods research, the development of instruments (surveys and assessments) and technology, and the implementation and evaluation of innovative programs.

Dr. AJ has worked in research for over a decade in various capacities and fields as she has earned a B.A. in Journalism, M.A. in Cultural Anthropology, M.P.H. in Applied Biostatistics and Epidemiology, and a Ph.D. in Psychometrics. She is the Founder and CEO of DataStories by Seshat, LLC, a research and data analysis company.

What first brought you to Breast Cancer Action? 

I came to cancer research after my best friend, Candice Rice, was diagnosed for a second time with breast cancer. Since then, I’ve engaged the field by participating in community-based partnerships that explore cancer etiology and test culturally-relevant interventions on survivorship and quality of life. Unfortunately, Candice did not survive treatment, and I’ve lost even more friends to this disease, including two mentors and another dear friend. Thus, I’m committed to engaging this work in a variety of ways including research, policy, and supporting Breast Cancer Action.

What do you love about Breast Cancer Action?

I chose to work with Breast Cancer Action because of the organization’s sustained commitment to holding corporations and other entities accountable for their contribution to the breast cancer epidemic. This is a value system I respect and love.

What are you most looking forward to as a new Board member?

I am most looking forward to supporting the organization in its mission.

Welcome to new Board member Mary Ann Burg

Mary Ann lives in Gainesville Florida. She is a Professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Central Florida in Orlando and also works as the Coordinator for the North Central Florida Cancer Collaborative (NCFCCC).  Mary Ann started her career in women’s health in the late 1970s as an abortion counselor at a feminist women’s health center.  That experience of supporting women moving through emotionally and politically charged moments in their lives, and working with other women in a participatory management philosophy, moved her to get trained in clinical social work and social science research. For five years she also worked on the Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project funded by the National Cancer Institute. This project was designed to monitor screening rates in the region where breast cancer incidence was higher than other areas in the country. This experience moved her into her life-long focus – investigating system level variables impacting the patient experience with breast cancer, and advocacy for equitable access to quality cancer care.

What first brought you to Breast Cancer Action? 

I found Breast Cancer Action around 2007 when I was starting a community cancer support program in Gainesville Florida and was exploring national cancer advocacy organizations for programming ideas. At that time, I visited Beverly Burns, the medical director of the Charlotte Maxwell Clinic in Oakland and was lucky to be invited to a dinner with Barbara Brenner, where I learned about Breast Cancer Action.

What do you love about Breast Cancer Action?

I find that political activism is lacking in many patient advocacy organizations, including breast cancer organizations. Breast Cancer Action has led the way in tearing back the curtains of complacency and denial about breast cancer research and the implications of fundraising in the name of advocacy.  

What are you most looking forward to as a new Board member?

Learning how to engage my community (local and national) into critical thought and action directed at better research to understand the causes of breast cancer and ways to eliminate disparities in breast cancer outcomes.

Welcome to new Board member Coco Villaluz

CoCo Villaluz is a Senior Community Development Manager for ClearWay MinnesotaSM.  CoCo is Hidatsa from the Three Affiliated Tribes, Assiniboine from Fort Peck/Fort Belknap in Montana, and Chamorro from the island of Guam.

CoCo has over eighteen years of experience in all phases of community development, capacity building and mobilizing. She has experience in addressing the sacred use of tobacco, as one of the founding members of the Native American Tobacco Coalition of Montana (NATCOM), and has partnered with many diverse organizations, such as Tobacco Policy Sharing Knowledge in Native Societies (TPSKINS), the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Cancer Society, and Many Voices, One Message. CoCo has presented at regional, statewide, national and international conferences, including the Global Youth Advocacy Training in Washington D.C. She has also participated on the FDA Stakeholders discussion for American Indian communities. 

Some of CoCo’s proudest accomplishments include passing the Fort Peck No Smoking Resolution for her tribe, being selected to present at the Auahi Kore (Smoke-Free) Conference in Aotearoa (New Zealand), and passing the Ohinni Candi Wakandapi/Chani Wakan K/Nusa Commercial Tobacco-Free Ordinance for her home community. CoCo incorporates different art forms into prevention activities to address commercial tobacco control. Her overall goal is to promote indigenous cultural wellness of our communities for generations to come.

CoCo is the recipient of the National Indian Health Board 2016 Regional Area Impact Award for advancing American Indian and Alaska Native health. And she was selected a keynote panelist at the National Conference on Tobacco or Health in Austin, TX in 2017.

What first brought you to Breast Cancer Action?

My first introduction to Breast Cancer Action was through a current Board member. She told me about this great organization and after doing some research about Breast Cancer Action’s history, I knew I wanted to be involved with their mission to create change.

What do you love about Breast Cancer Action?

I love their fearlessness in calling attention to the systemic injustices that are at the root of the breast cancer epidemic. I value Breast Cancer Action’s integrity—from their mission to their vision. They stand firm in their beliefs and because they are free from any conflicts of interest, they stand out in the breast cancer movement. And it’s this strict conflict of interest policy that makes it possible for them to do their important work. Having heard stories about how breast cancer impacts people on multiple levels (financially, emotionally, and physically) and knowing that corporations run pink ribbon awareness campaigns to make a profit, makes being a part of Breast Cancer Action even more important to me. Breast Cancer Action’s Think Before You Pink® campaign is an important counter to pinkwashing and empty awareness campaigns.

What are you most looking forward to as a new Board member?

I am excited to be a part of the movement to achieve health justice around breast cancer.  I have close family members who have been affected by the disease, and I feel that my role as a Board member is an important contribution to not only helping change the conversations around breast cancer in my community.