#BlackHistoryMonth – Marva Overton: Fighting For A New Norm

By: Marva Overton

My name is Marva Overton and I am the Executive Director of the Alliance for African American Health in Central Texas (AAAHCT). I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee and graduated from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.  I lived in Dallas, Texas before moving to Austin in the mid- 90s. I received an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin and worked as an SAP software consultant before changing career paths. That change in career led me to AAAHCT was motivated by a passion for working with people in communities to develop and implement strategies to address issues they feel are important and impact their quality of life. I enjoy tutoring and mentoring kids, reading, watching sports and walking for exercise.

AAAHCT was the brainchild of then Assistant Director of the City of Austin Health & Human Services Department (COA HHS), Shannon Jones and others. Following a health disparities conference presented by the COA HHS department in 2005, which highlighted the stark differences in mortality rates for African Americans from the 15 leading causes of death as compared to other racial/ethnic groups, an announcement was made that AAAHCT was being formed. The mission of the Alliance for African American Health in Central Texas is to empower African Americans living in the Central Texas counties of Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson to improve their health status through outreach, advocacy and education.


Breast cancer survivor, Komen Austin Advocate and founding member of Women in Strides, LaTanya Tatum, speaking at Worship in Pink.

I’ve been working for AAAHCT at some level since 2007 when I was asked to step-in and keep the organization going after the person who was heading it up at the time took another job. One of the most challenging aspects of the job has been building a track record of success with very little funding. As with most start-up non-profits, it takes the work of dedicated volunteers to get the ball rolling.

Persistent and consistent are two words that come to mind when I think about organization and my involvement with it.

AAAHCT owes its status as a Komen grantee to Dr. Mary Lou Adams, PhD, RN, FNP, FAAN. Dr. Adams is well known in the breast health community for her pioneering work to reduce breast cancer mortality among African American women. In fact, it is her evidenced-based program, African American Breast Cancer Outreach, on which AAAHCT’s Project Breast CARE is modeled. While I knew of Dr. Adams, I met her personally in 2011, when I asked her to write an article on breast health for AAAHCT’s newsletter. Later that same year, she contacted me and suggested the organization apply for funding from Komen Austin.

Knowing that we are helping to educate women and provide some with an opportunity they would not otherwise have to receive breast health services, reinforces our passion to do this work. Wilhemenia “Mina” Kodjoe, is one such client. We first met Mina at an outreach event in 2012, the first year we were a grantee. Mina is from Ghana and was not very familiar with navigating the health care system in Austin. She had not had a mammogram in about 15 years. Mina got her mammogram at a screening AAAHCT offered with Seton Healthcare Family’s mobile unit. Providing access to mobile mammography was a stated goal in our Project Breast CARE grant. Mina has stayed connected with AAAHCT and we have continued to assist her in getting her annual mammogram through the Pink Bus. It was also with our help that Mina was able to get access to a medical home with Lone Star Circle of Care. In 2013, Mina was diagnosed with stage 1 kidney cancer. She was successfully treated and is doing well today.

marva's blog pic 2

Thank you to the founding members of Women in Strides (Perreda Manor, LaTanya Logan, Donna Mercer, Maureen Oyiriaru, Jionne Harnsberry and Joanna Pope). These ladies are powering the promise to save lives and end breast cancer forever. 

It’s hard to meet someone whose has not been touched by breast cancer and I am no exception. I’ve had two friends that were diagnosed with breast cancer. One was in her mid-twenties and the other just a few years past forty when diagnosed. Fortunately for both, it was detected at an early stage and they have been survivors for 10+ years. My sister-in-law had two very close friends who did not fare as well. They both died from breast cancer, both in their 40s. One had triple negative breast cancer. I hope that more research will be done to better understand and develop treatment for tumors that have poorer prognosis and hit African American women, especially those under 45, at higher rates.

While overall African American women have a lower incidence rate from breast cancer than Non-Hispanic white women, the mortality rate continues to be higher. There is not a singular or simple reason for this. We must not accept this as the norm and assume that it has to be this way. As African American women we must be aware of and address those risk factors we can impact.

As recommended by Susan G. Komen® we must get screened, know our family history, know our normal, and live a healthy lifestyle.

However, we can’t stop there. We must be active in addressing the larger, systemic issues that play a monumental role in our chances for having good health and better outcomes when we are diagnosed. Issues such as education, employment, access to high-quality health care, affordable housing, neighborhood safety and transportation, criminal justice, all play a role in our community’s health and well-being. Each of us must find our part to play in addressing these root causes of health inequity.


Analog (Film) Mammography versus Digital Mammography & a New Digital Mammogram: 3-D Tomosynthesis

By: Lori Lea Garza, Mammography Technologist, Sr., RT (R)(M) at St. David’s Breast Center

Mammography continues to be the leading modality in the prevention and early detection of breast cancer. Throughout the years, mammograms have changed dramatically. In early times, analog (film) mammography was the standard, then digital mammography was introduced, and now we have 3-D technology. With all of these changes, patients often wonder what the difference is between the different technologies and which one is best for them.

Analog (film) mammograms were the standard of care for many years. However, as technology improved, analog image quality was not as reliable. In 2000, the FDA approved the first full-field digital mammography unit, which improved image quality dramatically. Digital mammograms decreased exam time and allowed us to store information on a computer.

In 2003, The Breast Center at St. David’s Medical Center became the first in Austin to obtain a digital mammography unit.

As of 2015, 95 percent of mammography facilities are digital.

While digital and film mammography both use X-rays, analog mammography stores the image directly on film, whereas digital mammography stores an electronic image as a computer file. It’s similar to the advances seen in photography—most people have shifted from film cameras to digital cameras, which means the images are often clearer and are produced faster. 2-D mammography, which entails taking four images of the breast, is considered a preventative study for the early detection of breast cancer. Along with the changes in image quality, 2-D mammography decreases the amount of radiation patients receive.

3-D mammography was introduced in February of 2011. This type of mammogram gave us a whole new spin on image quality and how we are able to view it. This technology, like the 2-D mammogram, takes four images of the breast, but it also incorporates a 1 mm image slicing of the breast, called tomosynthesis.

Tomosynthesis allows us to produce 30 to 60 images of the breast; therefore, it picks up 41 percent more breast cancers than the 2-D mammogram and reduces the patient’s call-back rate by 40 percent.

We at The Breast Center strive to maintain the best for our patients, so in July of 2013, we introduced the first Tomosynthesis 2-D/3-D mammography unit in the Austin area. Patients love the images and capabilities of the 3-D machine, but they’re often concerned about the radiation exposure. We assure them that the radiation dose is well within the acceptable range for screening mammograms—and even at the level of analog mammograms. We now offer Tomosynthesis HD 3-D mammography, which decreases the radiation dose to the equivalent of any other type of mammogram we’ve had in the past. Enhanced image quality and a lower radiation dose—need I say more? Well I will.

Since there are differences in these types of mammograms, the question we hear most often is which one is the best one for the patient. Truthfully, it is the patient’s decision. Statistically, 65 percent of females have dense breasts; this dense tissue can make it difficult to view the breasts. While mammography does detect cancer, it also detects abnormalities.

In this case, why not have a mammogram that will decrease the anxiety level of needing to be called back?

Since 3-D is a new type of mammography, it’s difficult to get a good census of which is better, as it depends on a number of factors.

In conclusion, when choosing which type of mammogram you want, choose the one you feel is best for you. Patients need to know their “normal” and decipher what’s going to work best for their breast health. The main goal is to get your recommended mammograms—and to do breast self-exams monthly. Let’s take care of ourselves, ladies, and understand that breast cancer affects all women, regardless of family history or age. The only person who can save you is you!


According to Susan G. Komen®, 246,660 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in women and 2,600 cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in  men in the U.S. in 2016. We recommend that you take action and get a mammogram! 

-Komen Austin

Komen Austin Runners With A Story

On February 14, 2016, many of you will be getting ready for Valentine’s Day, making last minute reservations, or possibly treating yourself to a spa day.  However, many individuals will be waking up before the crack of dawn getting ready to run for a great cause.

The Austin Marathon has been around for 25 years and the half marathon for 13 years. The philanthropy program of the Austin Marathon/Half Marathon, Austin Gives Miles, is striving to raise $250,000 for 25 local and national non-profits this year.

Individuals can choose to run the marathon or the half marathon with either a charity team or solely for themselves. Every participant will receive “runner swag” which includes a finisher medal upon crossing the finish line and a commemorative bag.

Susan G. Komen Austin® is a partnered non-profit of Austin Gives Miles and our goal of $10,000 wouldn’t be a possibility without our amazing Komen Austin team who each have a story behind the steps they take toward the finish line.

Through their touching stories and enthusiasm to reach their individual donation goals for Komen Austin, Lee Shidlofsy, Amanda Davila and Rachel Sullivan are already exemplifying amazing support for Komen Austin by joining our team of runners.


Update: As of 10:51 a.m. February 10, Lee Shidlofsy has raised $1,500! We congratulate you on reaching your goal. Thank you for all the support Lee. 

Lee has raised $1,391.10 for Komen Austin and his goal is $1,500. Lee is running in support of loved ones, Nancy and Beth.




Amanda has raised $220.94 for Komen Austin and has a goal of $700. Amanda is running in support of her mother who is 6 years breast cancer free as of this month.




Rachel, previous Komen Austin intern, is running in support of her mother who will be 6 years breast cancer free by December. Rachel is asking for donations toward Susan G. Komen for her birthday instead of gifts. Help her reach her goal of $300.


We have asked them a few questions to spotlight their amazing stories behind the reason they will be waking up before 5 a.m. to run for Susan G. Komen Austin.

1. Is this your first half marathon or marathon? If so, how long have you been training?

Lee: I did the 3M half a couple of weeks ago.  That was my first half marathon. I took up running in September.

Amanda: This is my very first half marathon! I’ve been training for 22 weeks for this race, and it’s been 22 weeks worthwhile!

Rachel: This will be my second half marathon. I ran the Austin Half-Marathon for the first time in 2013 and had a great time.

2. What will be your motivation to help you cross the finish line?

Lee: In the past few years, I have had several people in my life that were diagnosed with breast cancer.  Thankfully, they are breast cancer survivors.

Amanda: When I feel myself lagging, I remind myself that as a nurse I take care of people day in and day out who aren’t physically able to walk much less run. I run for them and I’m lucky enough to wake up in the morning and have that option and that pushes me that extra mile!

Rachel: My father passed away from liver cancer and my mom is a breast cancer survivor. I run because I enjoy it, and I love the Austin Half-Marathon because it’s a beautiful course. However, when I get tired or turn the corner to run up the hill on Enfield, I’m definitely thinking of both of them, and I’m driven by their struggles as well as the dream that some day cancer won’t be such a scary word.

3. You’re running to support Komen Austin in the Austin Marathon/Half-Marathon. Can you tell us why you chose to run for us?

Lee: All those that are fighting the fight every day and the belief that every dollar brings us a step closer to a cure.

Amanda: When I was 15, my mother was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer. The Susan G. Komen® Chapter of West Palm graciously provided her with the funds to have her very first treatment, and I strongly believe that if it weren’t for their help, we would not be where we are today. My mom is thankfully 6 years cancer free now and [I’m] so excited to run a race on her behalf!

Rachel: Komen Austin is close to my heart not only because of my experience as an intern, but because of the work they do to support women as they battle breast cancer and the investment they make in finding a cure. When my mom was going through chemotherapy, Komen volunteers would frequently be present at the treatment centers handing out knitted hats for all of the patients. Kindness and compassion like that, shown at all levels of Komen Austin, make me a lifetime supporter.

4. On the day of the run, will you be wearing a specific article of clothing to set you apart from the other runners?

Amanda: I’ll be wearing my special Under Armour running leggings that are sponsored by Susan G. Komen for the cure.

Rachel: To be honest, I’m not sure what I’ll be wearing yet! All I care about is crossing the finish line and immediately eating a cheeseburger.

Come out and support your Komen Austin team on February 14, 2016!  Volunteer to cheer on and replenish the runners at Aid Station #3 of the Austin Marathon/Half Marathon or donate to help us reach our goal of $10,000.

-Komen Austin





How To: Live a Healthy Heart Lifestyle

At Komen Austin, our goal is to be involved with our community by inspiring women and men to live a healthy lifestyle.  Adding weekly cardiovascular exercise has been proven to lower one’s risk of breast cancer.  February is American Heart Month and February 4, 2016 is World Cancer Day, so we want you to get those hearts pumping!  Many of these exercises can range from a brisk walk around a park, bicycling, swimming, joining an aerobics class or even mowing your lawn.

According to Susan G. Komen, “Being more active, eating a balanced diet and becoming more aware of your health can be physically and mentally rewarding at any point in life.”

Are you eating the foods your body needs to stay healthy?

According to The American Heart Association, below is a healthy dietary pattern that one should follow:

  1. Variety of fruits and vegetables (Apples, carrots, bell peppers and leafy greens)
  2. Whole grains (Oatmeal,brown rice, popcorn and wild rice)
  3. Low-fat dairy products (Fat-free/ low-fat yogurt)
  4. Skinless poultry and fish (Salmon, tuna and lean red meats)
  5. Nuts and legumes (Black beans, Black-eyed peas, kidney beans and lentils)
  6. Non-tropical vegetable oils (Canola, peanut, olive and sesame oil)

Simple adjustments to your every day lifestyle can turn around your heart health. Below are some extra tips to keep your heart strong and healthy:

  • Make time for breakfast
  • Avoid all-you-can-eat buffets
  • Get a cholesterol test
  • Stay away from salt
  • Ask for sauces and dressings to be served on the side
  • Laugh more often

Eating healthy is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to lowering your risk of breast cancer.  Ideally, you should engage in 30-60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity, five times a week for optimal benefits.

Ready to reduce your risks of developing breast cancer by getting your heart pumping?

We’ve got you covered if you’re trying to enhance your physical activity, recovering from post breast cancer surgery or just trying to support loved ones from losing their battle of breast cancer.

Austin Marathon/Half Marathon (February 14, 2016)
Time to break in those new running shoes! Run either a marathon or half marathon with our Komen Austin team and help us reach our $10,000 donation goal to help end breast cancer forever.

Free yoga (February and March)
Black Swan Yoga will be hosting FREE Sunset Yoga every Monday and Wednesday from 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. on the Terrace at Whole Foods during the months of February and March. (“Namaste” is all we have to say to free exercise!)

Ballet Austin Pilates Pink Ribbon Program (March 22, 2016 – May 26, 2016)
Ballet Austin offers a rehabilitative program every Tuesday beginning mid March to all women recovering from breast cancer for FREE. Enroll now before it’s too late!

Dirty Girl Run- Austin (April 2, 2016)
Ready to get down and dirty with your lady friends?  Dirty Girl Run offers a “3.1 mile(ish)” obstacle course run for all women wanting to either challenge themselves or run in memory of a loved one who lost their battle to breast cancer. $75 if you register by February 22, 2016 or email support@humanmovement.me if you are a cancer survivor to waive your register fee. 

It’s time to take charge of your health and take care of your body. We at Komen Austin encourage you to take into consideration what you are putting into your body and get physical every chance you get to say goodbye to cancer and  hello to healthy hearts.

-Komen Austin