Cincy Chic: You work as the Executive Director for the Cris Collinsworth ProScan Fund, which aims to enhance the lives of all women by promoting breast cancer health and awareness, as well as providing unique opportunities for children to enhance their intellectual development. What do you love about your job?
Reba Dysart: I love that we make a difference every day. Whether it’s through educating a woman on the facts about breast cancer, providing a funded, life-saving mammogram to a woman of limited means who could otherwise not afford it, giving a Pink Ribbon Bag to a woman newly diagnosed with breast cancer or seeing the smiles of the thousands of children that attend our Queen City Classic Chess Tournament, I can honestly say that I have the privilege of being able to tangibly touch lives every day. Not many people can say that.
Cincy Chic: How has breast cancer affected you personally?
Dysart: Like many people, I have known several loved ones who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Some have gone on to live long and healthy lives; others have lost the fight and will live in our hearts forever. Three of my good friends are young breast cancer survivors and a handful of family friends are currently beginning their healing journey.
Cincy Chic: In your opinion, what’s the biggest need you see Tri-State women facing in terms of general health and breast health?
Dysart: Several things come to mind. First, as much as everyone seems to be on the “breast cancer bandwagon,” locally and nationally, I still think there is a lack of breast cancer awareness in the Tri-State even though several breast-cancer-related organizations in town are on a tireless mission to reach everyone with the facts:
- Right off the bat, realizing the that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and that breast cancer can happen to anyone at any time is a harsh reality. I still hear people saying things like “only older women get breast cancer‚” or “only women who have a family history of breast cancer will get it.” Seeing a young woman diagnosed at 21 with no family history put that “theory” to rest for me. Realizing that 80 percent of all breast cancers occur in women with no known risk factors is another fact most people don’t realize.
- We do know that most breast cancers are highly treatable if found at an early, curable stage. When I first started working at the Fund in 2006, I was stunned to learn that Ohio ranks fifth in breast cancer mortality, leading some to speculate that women are not having their annual mammograms regularly, cancers are more aggressive, etc. Most interesting is that even though The American Cancer Society tells us that the majority of breast cancers occur in women 50 years and older, only 35 percent of the women in this age group follow the screening guidelines. The mortality rate would decrease by 30 percent if every woman over 50 was informed and followed the guidelines. These are the facts that many women don’t realize.
Second, I became much more aware that lack of insurance and the ability to pay for a mammogram were huge barriers to women getting screened. In order to meet this need, the Cris Collinsworth ProScan Fund developed the Pink Ribbon Mammogram Match, which provides funded mammograms and other breast health services to low-income, uninsured women who qualify. We also created the second ProScan Pink Ribbon Center – Over the Rhine in late 2005 to provide funded mammograms to an underserved population. To date, we have helped nearly a thousand women by providing free mammograms. Other organizations in town also provide financial assistance for women who qualify.
Finally, as women, we are pulled in a million directions. Between family, friends, work, social obligations, etc. we all too often forget our health and ourselves. I myself am guilty of this. It’s important to not postpone doctor’s appointments and to find out what’s wrong so it can be made right.
Cincy Chic: Since this issue is all about women’s health, in your opinion, how do you define “healthy?”
Dysart: You know your body best. I define healthy as feeling good about yourself physically, emotionally, socially, mentally and spiritually and taking care of yourself. Everyone has a different view of what diet is best or what workout plan is best, in the end, it’s important to just take care of yourself, watch what you eat, exercise regularly, go to the doctor regularly and try to keep stress to a minimum, by far, this is easier said than done.
Cincy Chic: Your upcoming Pink Ribbon Luncheon will feature Olympic Swimmer Dara Torres as the special guest. How exciting! What do you hope this event will do?
Dysart: The Pink Ribbon Luncheon serves as our annual fundraiser for our Pink Ribbon programs. This year, we expect 1,500 guests to attend the event and the luncheon serves as a great day to reconnect with old girlfriends, wear pink and celebrate life while supporting the fight against breast cancer. We are so excited about having Dara Torres be our speaker and we know that her incredible story will inspire our attendees to know that they can achieve their dreams at any age. To have won 12 Olympic medals, be the first swimmer to qualify for five Olympic games and compete against women half your age is remarkable and empowering. For more information, you can call us at (513) 924-5038 or visit us online.
Cincy Chic: Of all the programs offered through ProScan Fund, which is your favorite? Why?
Dysart: My favorite program is the Pink Ribbon Empowerment Program (PREP). This is a targeted outreach program I created in late 2006 to reach the underserved community with the important message of proactive breast health in a culturally competent, age appropriate way. The premise is simple: the education and outreach approach that works for one group might not work for another. This program meets the women of our community in their natural environment and begins the dialogue about breast health in a non-threatening manner. The stories we hear are amazing. I really enjoy the outreach component in terms of getting t into the community to meet with so many diverse women in small group settings, health fairs, Pink Ribbon Ladies Nights and much more. This program is supported through a grant from the Charlotte R. Schmidlapp Fund, Fifth Third Bank Trustee.
Cincy Chic: You were recently named one of the Business Courier‘s 2008 “40 Under 40” Congrats! What does the honor mean for you?
Dysart: Being named a Forty Under 40 is a huge honor for me and I feel so privileged to be among such a tremendous group of talented young people. I was a bit overwhelmed when I met my fellow class as they have accomplished such incredible and unique things in our community. To me, being named a Forty Under 40 is a reminder that to whom much is given, much is expected. It’s our responsibility to continue giving back to make our community an even better place than it already is.
Cincy Chic: You’ve hosted a ton of cool events for ProScan. What are some of your most memorable ones?
Dysart: The Queen City Classic Chess Tournament and the Pink Ribbon Luncheon are our two annual signature events and are always a lot of hard work but a blast to plan. A simultaneous exhibition or “simul” on Fountain Square in which Grandmaster Susan Polgar played 40 chessboards simultaneously while thousands stopped in the middle of their workday to watch this amazing display was incredible. A Pink Ribbon Luncheon with world-renowned author and healer Dr. Andrew Weil was simply extraordinary. At the end of last year, we had the privilege of helping launch UGIVE, a youth volunteer initiative. We planned an incredible concert with country music sensation Rascal Flatts. I am really looking forward to our upcoming Pink Ribbon Luncheon with Dara Torres where we’re expecting our highest attendance ever. I foresee many more fun events in the future!
Cincy Chic: How do you like to spend your free time?
Dysart: I love to spend time with my incredible family, amazing friends and the two cutest and cuddliest little doggies in the world. I enjoy volunteering and cherish the rare opportunity to carve out a few hours and just reconnect and chat over a good cup of coffee. I also love to see broadways, meet new people, watch movies, read, travel and of course, shop!
Cincy Chic: What’s your favorite thing about Cincinnati?
Dysart: I love the people of our great community. I used to think that Cincinnati was this boring place with no diversity that offered very little. Boy, was I wrong! Once I started getting more plugged in to the community, meeting more people, and seeing all the fantastic hidden treasures that Cincinnati has to offer, I realize that Cincinnati is a truly an incredible place.
If you have a recommendation of a fabulous, noteworthy and chic woman for our Chic Spotlight, we want to know! Send us an e-mail and we’ll consider your recommendation.
Photo: Courtesy of Reba Dysart