Remembering Jackie Hill

Sister. Ally. Advocate.  Remembering Jackie Hill

Jackie Hill wanted women facing breast cancer to know, “You are not alone.”  After facing her own breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in 2000, the advanced practice registered nurse and nurse practitioner found at that time that there was no information targeted to African-American women about how breast cancer impacts them.

African-American women in the U.S. face a breast cancer death rate that is nearly 40 percent higher than white women, are diagnosed with the highest rates of the most aggressive and most difficult to treat breast cancer subtypes and are often diagnosed younger with late-stage breast cancer when treatment options are limited and prognosis is poor.

Driven by a need to provide education and hope to other women of color, Jackie collaborated with breast cancer survivor, Gwen Watson, to start an education, advocacy and support group called My Sister’s Keeper.  They began to work with newly diagnosed breast cancer patients and survivors facing post-treatment side effects.  Jackie developed educational brochures geared to the African-American audience to help women understand their breast health.

Beyond educating women, Jackie began to share her story with others and reach out to women facing breast cancer to offer hope.  My Sister’s Keeper provided a safe environment where women of color could share their survival stories, learn about their treatment options, and find allies in their battle against breast cancer.  Jackie wanted women to feel connected to other survivors, lean on each other for strength and then share their message with the community.

Jackie advocated to ensure up-to-date information regarding diagnosis, treatment, and clinical trials were accessible to women of all ethnic groups.  In 2002, she was introduced to the National Breast Cancer Coalition Advocacy Training Conference where she learned more about the science of the prevention, detection and treatment of breast cancer. At that time, she began to see the importance of African American women participating in and understanding the need for research. Several years later, Jackie was honored with the “WOMEN Who Get it Right Award” by the National Breast Cancer Coalition at their gala in New York City.

Jackie’s compassion toward the women of her community and her tenacious will to improve the lives of those women made her a fitting recipient for many accolades within the Omaha community and beyond.  She grew My Sister’s Keeper throughout the years, receiving funding from Susan G. Komen® Nebraska and other local organizations. To recognize Jackie’s strength and the encouragement she provided to others, she was featured during a 2010 Komen Nebraska billboard campaign entitled “I Am Alive” highlighting pictures of survivors of all ages and ethnicities, and she received the 2012 Gillian Anne Pienett Award from Komen Nebraska.

Within the last several years, Jackie extended her outreach even further by guiding women through the myriad of issues associated with cancer as a navigator for the UNMC Community Breast Health Navigator program. In the fall of 2013, Jackie worked with Dr. LaShaune Johnson of Creighton University to co-found the Metro African-American Task Force representing a diverse team of public health professionals, healthcare providers and other community stakeholders. Trained screening advocates encourage friends and family members to have recommended breast health tests and connect them with local resources.  Most recently, Jackie served as the Community Nurse Health Practitioner at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health and served at the Charles Drew Outpatient Clinic for the homeless.

Please join us in offering our condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Jackie Hill.