Jessica Henderson, health professor at Western Oregon University, trains students to become stellar advocates. Each year she takes a group of students to the National Breast Cancer Coalition Advocacy Conference (NBCC) in Washington D.C. where they get three days of training sessions and discussions to help deepen their understanding of breast cancer research, health care and policy issues to take to the scientific community, providers, lawmakers and the public. On the fourth day they meet on Capitol Hill and get practical experience in lobbying U.S. Senators and Representatives. The students met with Senators Wyden and Merkley, and Congressmen Schrader, Walden, Wu, DeFazio and Blumenaur. Henderson took 20 students to NBCC this past May and seven of those students were also members of a new organization on campus: Wolves Against Breast Cancer (WABC).
Henderson, the faculty advisor, and Katrina Rothenberger, one of the students in the group and the co-founder and first president of WABC, had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They were selected to have lunch with Jill Biden, Ph.D., wife of Vice President Biden. NBCC has an emerging leaders program that recognizes outstanding students; this year Rothenberger was one of only four students chosen among a national pool to be named an Emerging Leader. Biden is active in the breast cancer community through her home state of Delaware, and she has been touched by breast cancer through personal friends who have been diagnosed. Rothenberger graduated with a bachelor’s in community health education from WOU this past June. She was voted by faculty as the “Outstanding Community Health Education Major” this year. She has been accepted into the Master’s of Public Health (MPH) program at Oregon State University and will begin this fall, with the intention of focusing on health policy.
The NBCC Advocacy Conference is held every year and advocates from around the nation and at least 16 countries participated. About 800 advocates attended in May to help in the fight against breast cancer. Most of the advocates are breast cancer survivors. For the past five years, Western Oregon University has had more students than any other university participating in the Emerging Leaders program.
(Photo above) Dr. Jessica Henderson with Jill Biden and WOU senior Katrina Rothenberger at the Vice President’s home in Washington, D.C.