Cancer, in a twisted sort of way, has the power to bring people together. It might be researchers working on the frontiers of the cancer fight, clinicians joining to execute that fight on a patient's behalf, or a community galvanizing to support a loved one. And now there's a new union: the American Cancer Society's National Capital LGBT Council.
The council, a first for the ACS' South Atlantic Division, follows a model begun in the San Francisco Bay Area by John Lazar, now senior vice president of the South Atlantic Division, and a gay man.
"This council is an embodiment of one of the core values -- to value diversity -- in all activities of the American Cancer Society in the South Atlantic Division," Lazar said in a release announcing the new council.
The division is comprised of the Eastern Seaboard states, from Delaware south through Georgia, and West Virginia. The National Capital LGBT Council is the first GLBT council in this division. Its focus will be on four primary areas: pooling resources, tobacco, identifying GLBT researchers, and providing referrals.
"We can help people find good information," says Leslie Calman, executive director of the Mautner Project, the national lesbian health organization, and a member of the all-volunteer council. "Mautner has a good Web site on lesbian health issues and breast cancer. The American Cancer Society has one of the best sites around, in terms of information about treatment for cancer. We're basically pooling resources."
Calman adds that the pooling is not simply between ACS and Mautner, but between all council members. Those joining Calman on the council are Christopher Dyer of the Mayor's Office for LGBT Affairs, Dwaine Gasser of Whitman-Walker Clinic, David Mariner of the DC Center, the ACS' Jose Munoz, and Ron Simmons of Us Helping Us, People Into Living.
Craig Fritz, a spokesperson for ACS, says the number of council members is not fixed, and that the council will likely grow in time.
"When we talk about our values, valuing diversity, that has a different face in every market," says Fritz. "In Washington, you're being remiss if you don't have finger on the pulse of the GLBT community. It's such a vibrant part of Washington. [The council is] a baby step, but I think it's going to be extremely positive. We're kind of testing the waters."
For more information about the American Cancer Society, visit www.cancer.org or call 800-227-2345.