Photo: Winnie Au

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Beatrice Welters
The Crusader
Beatrice Welters, a former U.S. ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer when she was 56. She needed a mastectomy, but not chemotherapy or radiation, and more than nine years later, she’s in excellent health. Welters feels lucky that her cancer was found early, especially because she knows her experience isn’t typical. Although black women are less likely than white women to get breast cancer, they’re about 40 percent more likely to die from it. One factor is that many black women aren’t getting the medical care they need soon enough. “We’ve got to make a dent in this disparity,” Welters says.

To that end, she’s partnered with NYU Langone Medical Center to inform black women about the importance of early detection and treatment. As part of the Beatrice W. Welters Breast Health Outreach and Navigation Program, local healthcare helpers, called patient navigators, spread the gospel of mammograms in churches, salons, and gyms. They also arrange transportation and childcare so women can see doctors. This year’s aim is to reach 5,000 women and facilitate 2,000 screenings in Brooklyn, then expand to Harlem. “Breast cancer is an overwhelming experience,” says Welters. “We want to hold women’s hands through the entire process.”