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Claudia Gilmore: Exporting a Personal Triumph

Claudia Gilmore

ABOUT 

  • Five years ago, Claudia Gilmore heard the news from her genetics counselor that she had inherited her family's broken BRCA-1 gene. Statistically speaking, it meant that if she did nothing, she was likely to get breast or ovarian cancer at some point in her life.
  • Although devastated at first, she recalls, "I came to realize that this knowledge would save my life if I could only muster the courage to embrace prevention." 
  • Not only did Gilmore undergo a double mastectomy, she shared her story with family, friends and the national media. She explains, "I wanted to show you're never too young to take a stand for your health."
  • Gilmore's experience also compelled her to seek to have a larger impact in the world of prevention. In the fall of 2012, she enrolled at the Community Health Sciences MPH program at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and began to acquire the tools and skills that could transform her story into a public health initiative. 
  • Last summer, she went to Lusaka, Zambia as part of her fieldwork for Jhpiego, an affiliate of Johns Hopkins University. Women in Zambia have the world's second-highest lifetime risk of cervical cancer; Jhpiego was launching a national screening and prevention program to address this public health crisis, and Gilmore was brought on to help. 

IMPACT

When Claudia Gilmore held her first community-based focus group
  • Gilmore's tasks in Zambia included developing information, education and communication materials to support the new program and help the community understand the importance of cervical cancer screening and prevention.
  • She interviewed national stakeholders, local providers and women attending screening clinics. 
  • Gilmore also collaborated with colleagues in Zambia and the United States in the design and pre-testing of a flyer and brochure now used by Jhpiego and other implementing partners across Zambia. 
  • Her most memorable moment was one afternoon in late August, when she held her first community-based focus group. "I hoped for eight women to attend," she recalls. "Instead, I was met by the whole village!"
  • Unable to collect in-depth data from an entire village, Gilmore instead spent nearly two hours talking with the attendees about prevention - and her own health history. 

"Every woman who was present that day changed me," she says. "Despite difficult life circumstances, they care deeply about their health. They showed me what a passion for prevention really means."