|The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania|
Miss America Katie Harmon Talks with OncoLinks Editor-in-Chief, Dr. James Metz
September 21st is fast approaching. That is the date that Katie Harman, Miss America 2002 and friend of OncoLink, will pass the crown to Miss America 2003. Katie's platform as Miss America, Breast Cancer in America: Caring Community-by-Community, entails caring for women and men with breast cancer. Particularly addressing issues surrounding quality of life for patients in all stages of the disease. Katie spent the year traveling the country, visiting patients and hearing accounts of their battles with the disease. She was able to use her crown as a megaphone to spread the word that hope and quality of life are of utmost importance for breast cancer patients.
Miss Harman spent some time with OncoLink's Editor-in-Chief, Dr. James Metz, as her year of service was winding down, to discuss the accomplishments of her year.
Dr. James Metz
Thank you so much for taking a few minutes with us today. We really appreciate it.
MA: Anything I can do.
What do you feel you were able to accomplish with your platform, Breast Cancer in America: Caring Community-by-Community during your year of service as Miss America this year?
MA: When I look back at this past year, how I started, and the message I started with, my platform evolved and became even stronger. I feel I have achieved many of my goals thus far. One achievement was that the overall message I was trying to send, about support and quality of life, was heard by so many different groups. That was one of my main goals, to be able to communicate that to many different types of people. One of the most exciting groups, one that I did not expect to be able to communicate with, were the governing bodies, the legislative bodies. And I had the opportunity to visit many state legislatures, as well as our national legislature, and speak with them about breast cancer issues and about access, especially, which leads me to another achievement. I was so surprised at the extent of the opportunity to communicate and raise awareness of issues surrounding access to quality treatment, prescription drugs, medications, and support.
Yes, that is one aspect that I think is so important. It is amazing how many issues you get into just with breast cancer-and how many different avenues you can go down.
MA: I agree. I think the third achievement, which was my ultimate goal, was to offer hope and support to the breast cancer patients themselves. To communicate to them that the crown was their megaphone. That was the opportunity for them to proclaim the messages that they wanted, and that were important to them.
I can tell you it was wonderful just seeing you going from room to room with the patients here at Penn, how much they brightened up. Their whole day changed-they were enlightened on how they were looking at life after meeting with you, so it is wonderful that you have taken this on as your platform.
MA: Thank you. They have really changed me. They were amazing. They have given me so much resolve within this issue? and their prospective on life-just amazing.
That leads me to a couple of other questions-how do you think your time spent with women battling breast cancer has changed you over this year?
MA: It has enlightened me as to their feelings, thoughts, desires, and needs. I am so thankful, and feel so blessed that so many women opened their hearts to me. That they openly told me what it was that they were feeling and what they wanted said with the megaphone. In all this, I was almost a conduit of what they wanted to say.
Yes, an effective one.
MA: It also gave me more resolve. It made me more definite-more definitive as far as how important this issue was to me. It is extremely important to me that these messages be heard, that the women and men battling breast cancer have the best support they can receive as well as access to the treatments and other things they need. I believe it has further impassioned me.
That is absolutely wonderful. How do you think all these experiences over the past year, with the year winding down, have clarified what you are going to do with the future?
MA: It has most definitely clarified what I want to do in the future! I think it solidified it for me. It has told me, in my heart, that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. This is exactly what I want to do and, if anything, it has opened my eyes to becoming more involved in access issues, speaking out more about them, and getting more involved in the future. It has confirmed for me the fact that I want to work in Medicine and health care. I want to pursue graduate studies in the field of public health and bioethics and then go on to a career in health care.
That is wonderful. I remember you telling us, when you were visiting the University of Pennsylvania, that you were looking at Bioethics and medical ethics as a career interest.
MA: My ultimate goal is to be a strong voice within the Health Care community for patient quality of life. This year and my experiences have clarified that goal and solidified it even more.
That is wonderful. If you could stand on a soap box and send out a message to those women with breast cancer, what would you want to say to them, right now?
MA: They are to never give up hope. Retain their hope. Because they are giving hope to so many people through their perspective on life, through their experiences. I am so amazed. I was amazed at every single woman that I met because they retained joy and they retained hope, and that impassioned so many people around them. Plus, enjoy life to the fullest. Love life, take a hold of life. That was something that I saw in so many of the women and men that I had the opportunity to meet. Do not to give up hope and enjoy life to the fullest.
I think that is wonderful. I have to congratulate you, because I think you have been a beacon of light for people with this disease. It was amazing seeing you light up people's lives visiting with them at the hospital. I can give you all of the credit in the world on how you hold yourself. I was very impressed with how you thought about these issues, how you speak about these issues, and you have done a really wonderful job.
MA: That means a lot to me. Thank you.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. I hope we will be hearing more from you on these issues in the future. Best of luck to you!
MA: Thank you so very much. It was a pleasure to speak with OncoLink.
Katie addresses the Michigan State Senate as Senator John J. H. Schwarz looks on
You can also view Katie's interview with OncoLink from February, 2002.