Each month, the Cancer Policy Insitute will be profiling advocates who have been engaged in advocacy in their home state, their community, with elected officials, and more. Read on to learn more about our featured advocate for the month of August and her passion for defending and increasing access to health care for all . If you are interested in learning more about policy, advocacy, and ways to get involved, sign up to be a part of the Grassroots Network!
Mirchelle Louis, Dallas, Texas
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
CEO, CSCNT, Chair of Affiliate Council, Southern Region affiliate
How did you get connected with the Cancer Support Community?
I think that many of the most meaningful things that have happened in my life appear to be complete accidents!
I am a clinical social worker. In 2006, I was just entering the work force as a social worker and a social worker friend of mine told me that Gilda’s Club North Texas was advertising for social work positions. I did not know anything about the Gilda’s Club organization at the time, but when I checked the GCNT website I was completely drawn to the philosophy and focus of the organization. They had two positions advertised, one for an Outreach Coordinator and one for the Program Director position. I applied for the Outreach Coordinator position thinking I did not have enough experience to be a Program Director. I ended up being offered the Program Director position and was ecstatic (and scared)! As it turned out, I absolutely loved being a PD. My experience in that role has kept me focused on the importance of our work – the people we support. Over time my position has evolved; from PD to Director of Strategic Advancement and then to my role as CEO.
Did you have experience with advocacy in any capacity before joining CSC? (e.g. legislator meetings, hosting educational events, writing letters or calling, writing pieces for media outlets, posting on your personal Facebook, sharing information with your community, etc.)
Apart from engaging in some limited advocacy at grad school, I did not have much experience with advocacy before becoming part of this organization. In my previous positions advocacy had not been an important part of my work. I’d sign on to an email petition from time to time but other than that, I was just an informed voter, voting for candidates representing issues that were important to me and my community when election time came around.
In what ways have you been involved with advocacy with CSC?
Having the Cancer Policy Institute has been a key for me; making me aware of cancer related issues that impact our community, encouraging engagement with our local, state and federal representatives, realizing that our representatives need to hear from us all, and taking the angst out of hill visits and making them memorable and fun.
Consequently CSCNT now actively looks for opportunities to make our voices heard and to tie into advocacy opportunities; by engaging with our representatives at all levels, by hosting informational presentations at our clubhouse locations and in our local community, by leveraging events like the Biden Cancer Initiative summits, engaging our participants in grassroots advocacy, etc. It’s proving impactful, fun and not at all scary!
We just had our second Business, Breakthroughs and Future of Cancer Care symposium. Three presenters gave excellent presentations, Kristen Santiago spoke on policy issues impacting cancer care, Ray Perryman spoke about the economic impact of cancer on the Texas and North Texas economy, and Dr. Daniel Nader, spoke on the new treatments and research going on in cancer.
Is there one issue you are particularly passionate about?
In this political climate, it’s difficult to pick just one issue, but within the scope of our work, I’d say it’s defending and increasing access to health care for all.
What is one tip or piece of advice you’d like to share with others who are interested in becoming an advocate?
I know we’re all super busy, but advocacy is very important and this is a great time to get involved. Reach out to our Cancer Policy Institute – they’re a great resource. They know the ropes, they’ll guide you, and help you get things going. You’ll really enjoy the experience and our voices and especially the voices of our participants do make a difference.
Tell us something fun about yourself—any hobbies, interests, or fun facts?
I love new challenges. I’m a trivia junkie and an unashamed TV episode binge watcher. I love traveling, people watching, and being by the ocean. Life is good!