Advocate’s Corner: May 2024

Photo: Headshot of Ginika Nwaba
Ginika Nwaba, OCRA’s Ann Kolker Advocacy Fellow

The Ann Kolker Advocacy fellowship commemorates the legacy of Ann Kolker, a pioneering health policy advocate and a founder of Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, which later became Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance. Ann passed on February 3, 2016, after her long and courageous battle with ovarian cancer, leaving behind her husband, 3 kids, and numerous grandchildren. In her honor, her family and friends created this opportunity to celebrate her and usher in a new generation of health policy advocates to advance ovarian cancer policy, research, education, and advocacy. 

I applied for this fellowship because I am passionate about public health work, with a particular interest in health disparities. Throughout my education, I’ve focused on women’s health policy, so working at OCRA felt like the perfect opportunity to continue doing research and advocacy that was personally meaningful. I appreciate OCRA’s dedication to increasing health equity, and its targeted efforts to reach communities of color and improve health outcomes for all women. I was most excited for the opportunity to gain insights into health policy advocacy and patient engagement, and to translate scientific and observational research into concrete policy objectives through grassroots and legislative advocacy, as well as direct engagement.

On a typical day, I attend coalition meetings with other cancer-focused organizations and work on research projects that I brainstorm with OCRA’s Vice President of Policy, Chad Ramsey. The fellowship committee has been extremely supportive of my passion for prioritizing equity in all my projects, and currently, I am working on a project to identify racial, geographical, and financial disparities in access to biomarker and genetic testing. From there, we are working on numerous policy solutions to increase access to genetic testing and ensure that all women diagnosed with ovarian and related gynecologic cancers can access quality care. 

Additionally, I prepare briefs and memos on topics related to gynecologic cancers, listen to Senate hearings related to cancer health policy, and attend conferences, symposiums, lobby days, and galas on behalf of OCRA. I also compile state-specific data that our policy team can reference during meetings with legislators and public health leaders.

I find working with our Advocate Leaders to be one of the most impactful parts of this fellowship. OCRA’s Advocate Leaders are individuals who have been diagnosed with gynecologic cancer, have a loved one battling gynecologic cancer, or are passionate about the cause. I learn about their advocacy efforts, lobby Congress with them, and support them on projects they organize. It’s inspiring to see the amazing things these advocates accomplish while also battling cancer, supporting their loved ones, working full time jobs, and honoring the memory of their loved ones. 

Another amazing feeling is learning how our work impacts others. In our meetings with legislators and advocates, we see first-hand that many people are uninformed about ovarian and gynecologic cancers in general, and the limited resources and poor outcomes compared to other cancers. It is extremely gratifying see how OCRA’s policy team and advocates are helping others and increasing awareness about women’s health. 

I am inspired by the expansion of our programs to include gynecologic cancers in addition to ovarian cancer. The program’s expansion increases our opportunities for positive change, helps us reach more people, and encourages more individuals to use their experiences to improve health outcomes. There’s a beautiful power in numbers and the diversity of stories shared by our advocates. I’ve learned so much from all of them and I know they have found support and empowerment from each other as well. 

After my fellowship, I plan to continue working with OCRA to advocate for gynecologic health advancements. 

Ginika Nwaba
Ann Kolker Advocacy Fellow

Posted on in Advocacy


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