Health and Beauty

Check out my special chat with writer, brain tumor survivor, health activist and #SisterHealthChat creator Dawn Smith


Thank you Dawn for joining us. Please tell us about yourself? 

I am a writer with a strong belief that Story can inspire people to think and act. In 2003, A brain tumor diagnosis interrupted my writing career and social life — everything. When my diagnosis silenced my writing career, I believed it also silenced my story. I proved myself wrong when I became a health advocate and founder of #sistershealthchat.

So how did you start?

I became a health advocate when my health insurance company refused out-of-network coverage for a visit to Cleveland Clinic, one of the few facilities my doctors believed could provide treatment for my rare brain tumor.

Thankfully,, a political action committee with over 8 million members was looking for health care stories. I answered and quickly became the subject of a petition, which garnered over 100,000 signatures and media attention. and I embarked on a five-state tour, visiting small businesses, churches and homes, collecting over 20,000 health care stories. I shared these stories in meetings with lawmakers in Washington D.C.  and health care executives in Philadelphia.

My belief that we deserve health equity inspired me to continue my advocacy and found #sistershealthchat Twitter chat.


Incredible. WOW!! What health issues do you think need to be addressed for Black women?

If #BlackLivesMatter, we must address the health disparities which kill black women unnecessarily. We are not alone in this belief. The New England Journal of Medicine, Johns Hopkins and many organizations confirm race and economics are leading factors in health disparities.

For example, when a black woman goes to emergency room complaining of pain, she is less likely to receive an opiod prescription because of the widespread belief that blacks feel less pain. Medical bias is not the only contributor to this racial empathy gap. African-Americans, believing we have undergone the hardship of racism, assume each other to have higher pain thresholds. The “strong black woman” myth literally hurts us.

The reasons for health disparities in breast cancer are more complex. Overall breast cancer deaths are on the decline according to The Avon Foundation. Mortality rates of black women did not change substantially. Common culprits such access to care, screenings, and quality of treatment contribute to increasing disparity.

Thankfully, organizations such as Black Women’s Health Imperative, Finding Answers and National Partnership for Action are working to end health disparities. Community health centers and rural clinics are always on the front lines in keeping patient care equitable.

Black women are usually tasked with taking care of others so what tips would you give Black women who are not really focused on their health?

We play the role of “strong black woman” to the death. We carry our strength as a burden as and a banner ignoring it leads to higher rates of depression and many stress related illnesses. Acknowledging our vulnerability or need for help does not make us any less of a woman.

  1. Take one moment every week to be a #carefreeblackgirl.
  2. Get health insurance. Open enrollment for 2015 is over, but you can still get coverage after major life events such as getting married, having a baby, or a new career.
  3. Black does not crack, but it can get skin cancer. Cover your cocoa-kissed skin with sunscreen.
  4. Get to know your community health clinic. They typically know the needs of the neighborhood.
  5. Move your prescriptions to one pharmacy.
  6. Schedule a preventative Well-Woman visit, which is free under the Affordable Care Act.
  7. If you are uninsured or underinsured, CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) provides low to no-cost screenings in most states.
  8. Get tested. Know your status.
  9. Sign up for clinical trials. Historically, we have the most to fear from clinical trials. Medically, we have the most to gain.
  10. Tell yourself you are beautiful. Tell another sister she is beautiful. Repeat daily.

YYYYYYYASSSS!! When and where is the chat and how can we contact you?

The women of #sistershealthchat meet on Twitter every Tuesday at 8 EST / 7CT. You can learn more about my health advocacy at and follow me on Twitter at @maisolmedia.

Thank you!!



  1. Cheryl Sullivan 18 August, 2015 at 22:19 Reply

    Wonderful article and great information for all women. We need to remind ourselves to take care of our bodies and minds on a daily basis! We need to keep our doctors in check. Some doctors don’t believe our lives are important because we are of color.
    My daughter (Dawn) and I have this conversation on a regular basis as she goes through her brain tumor journey. Dawn, mom is very proud of your interest in helping others understand and getting doctors to understand that Black Health also matters.

  2. Dionne 20 August, 2015 at 21:38 Reply

    Thanks for sharing a part of your story and offering us ways to take action to get better care for ourselves and all Black women. It is so important for us to remember that we can be strong Black women but will be stronger when we take the time to care for ourselves first.

  3. Diana Brown 28 September, 2015 at 16:47 Reply

    What a wonderful testimony and display of tremendous effort. Your story is real and necessary to show others what can be accomplished in spite of the obstacles to substantial healthcare. Thank you for your diligence and promotion!

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