Advocate Spotlight: Kara Downey, MSW
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got connected with the Cancer Support Community/Gilda’s Club.
I am a social worker and have spent my career working with children and adults with disabilities and special healthcare needs. I first became involved with the Cancer Support Community when I was hired as the Manager for Programs in July 2020. I was particularly impressed by the organization’s commitment to the person, emphasizing psychosocial needs in addition to the more traditional medical needs of a cancer patient, as well as its commitment to health equity.
Did you have experience with advocacy in any capacity before joining CSC/GC? (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.)
I have a good amount of advocacy experience, both in individual and systems advocacy, prior to joining CSC. I’ve supported clients having a voice at doctor’s appointments, helped families navigate getting special education services for their child at school, and spoken to legislators about health policy issues. Lately, I’ve found ways to advocate in my local community by attending virtual council meetings and spreading information about voting!
Is there one issue you are particularly passionate about?
I am particularly passionate about healthcare access and addressing health disparities. Longstanding systemic health and social inequities have put certain groups including Black and Brown people, undocumented communities, and people with disabilities at greater health risks. I think it’s not only important to address these issues from an equity standpoint but as a way to ensure that all individuals can make informed choices about their health and improve their quality of life.
What is one tip or piece of advice you’d like to share with others who are interested in becoming an advocate?
I would say don’t let yourself become too overwhelmed. There will always be work to do and there will always be injustices to dismantle. Make sure to take time for yourself, allow yourself a breather, lean on others.
Tell us something fun about yourself—any hobbies, interests, or fun facts?
I love to travel! My favorite city is Dublin and I’m excited for the chance to go back, hopefully sooner rather than later. Also, my fun fact at parties is that I’m related to Mark Twain.