By Carol Matyka
I am honored to be named by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to the National Advisory Council for the Agency for Health Research and Quality (AHRQ). I’m especially excited by the opportunity this platform presents to move us closer to Breast Cancer Deadline 2020®.
The AHRQ National Advisory Council advises the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the AHRQ Director on setting priorities for a national agenda and strategy to enhance health care research, improve outcomes and reduce the cost of health care services–key strategies for achieving the goals of the deadline. The Council’s 21 individual members serve two-year terms and are selected to represent areas of health care research and quality improvement, clinical practice, health plans, providers and purchasers, health care economics, ethics and public policy. Three members represent patient and consumer interests.
So how does someone like me, diagnosed with breast cancer nearly 19 years ago, develop into an advocate ready, willing, and able to sit at this table?
It started when I attended my first NBCC Advocacy Conference in the late 1990’s. Like many of us not too far out from treatment, I had an emerging yet unfocused energy fed by a growing hunger to learn more about breast cancer and a curiosity about NBCC’s brand of advocacy. I was impressed by NBCC’s mission to end breast cancer, and its strategy to include educated advocates in all areas where decisions about breast cancer are made. The phrase “a seat at every grown-ups table” stuck in my head. I was convinced that NBCC was an organization that would shake the world of breast cancer and I wanted to be part of that.
I jumped right in! NBCC’s three Project LEAD® courses: Basic, Clinical Trials and Quality Care, gave me a knowledge base and helped develop critical thinking skills necessary to participate in research proposal review panels and collaborations, clinical trials improvements initiatives and efforts to improve health care access. I became involved in NBCC initiatives including the Guide to Quality Breast Cancer Care and the Quality Care Measures Initiative. On the legislative and policy front, NBCC has given me the opportunity to indulge a personal passion for the legislative (and sometimes political) process. As Massachusetts Field Coordinator I am proud to lead our state advocates to Capitol Hill to visit our Senators and Representatives to promote NBCC’s legislative priorities. And I am grateful for the mentorship offered by outstanding NBCC advocates–a gift I hope to carry forward in my role as Project LEAD mentor and LEAD Quality Care faculty.
I will bring the entirety of these experiences as I take my seat on the ARHQ Advisory Council. But I also approach this new assignment with keen awareness and deep gratitude that I am blessed with healthy years denied many diagnosed with this disease and a sense of responsibility to best use my talents and abilities to meet the task at hand. Most importantly, I will be firmly guided by our shared commitment to achieve Breast Cancer Deadline 2020®.