Harris County Hospital District’s breast cancer survivors honored at luncheon

Dec. 1, 2011

Gladys Mez de Lena, left, and Dr. Margo Hilliard Alford, senior vice president of Community Health and Wellness for the Harris County Hospital District.
Gladys Mez de Lena, left, and Dr. Margo Hilliard Alford, senior vice president of Community Health and Wellness for the Harris County Hospital District.

As October – National Breast Cancer Awareness Month – drew to a close, breast cancer survivors across the world celebrated and reflected on the advancements made over decades. Breast cancer survivors are living longer and stronger, experts say.

On Oct. 28, Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center teamed up with the Harris County Hospital District to honor their own patients and survivors at a special luncheon.

BCM oncologists provide breast cancer care at the Ben Taub General Hospital and MD Anderson oncologists at the Lyndon Baines Johnson General Hospital.

"We are here to honor our patients who have placed their trust in us for their care," said George Masi, chief operating officer of HCHD, speaking at the luncheon. "We are humbled by their faith and confidence in us."

Joined by their loved ones and the physicians that care for them, the women shared their stories of strength, including featured speaker Dr. Margo Hilliard, a breast cancer survivor and senior vice president of Community Health and Wellness for the HCHD.

From a young age, Hilliard said she desired to become a physician and provide chronic disease care for the poor. She has committed her career to doing just that.

Dr. Polly Niravath
Dr. Polly Niravath

Dr. Polly Niravath, assistant professor in the Smith Breast Center at BCM and director of the Ben Taub's Breast Cancer Survivorship clinic, also addressed the survivors – in both English and Spanish.

She shared a story of one of her first patients whose strength inspires Niravath daily. "She was a single mother with two sons who after weeks of rigorous treatment remained so strong, even training for the Austin marathon – a goal of hers," said Niravath.

One year after diagnosis, the patient completed the marathon, Niravath said. She encouraged the patients to celebrate their strength. As the celebration ended, survivors were given pink roses.