By K. Levek
To look at her you would not know what she’s been through over the past few years, but Natalie Williams, now United Medical Center’s (UMC) Hospital Spokesperson and Corporate Secretary for the hospital’s board of directors, has a powerful story to tell about health and triumph. When asked if she would have imagined working in her current capacity, she merely grins and begins to reflect on her past. A seasoned communications professional, Ms. Williams, a young middle-aged woman, has been used to being in the spotlight.
She began her career in television, working for many of the major stations here in the District, like WUSA 9 and NBC 4, also traveling across the county. Fully capitalizing on her talent for media, she began her own boutique public relations firm, Blitz Associates, where she has focused on exclusive clientele like the Washington Redskins, local political figures and national political figures. Through her firm, Ms. Williams has advised her many clients on messaging and image building, working not only with the individual, but even major companies.
One of her major, and current, clients is the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, which is comprised of black elected officials across the U.S. and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Working with their executive committee, Ms. Williams has created programming and helped run their annual conference. Additionally, she has been involved in a number of political campaigns, from issue-based campaigns on education to council and mayoral campaigns. While working with the caucus Ms. Williams met former mayor Marion Barry and began consulting for him on communications-related instances.
She says she enjoyed a great four-year stint with Mr. Barry, serving in the capacity of a “Top Aide” and Strategic Communications Director and official spokeswoman. There she also learned much more of the inner workings of the D.C. political scene which intrigued her interest in a possible candidacy. As she likes to say, “ I’ve focused a lot of messaging,” which isn’t surprising that after years of making others look great, she launched her own bid for city council in 2011. Although unsuccessful, she landed in a role at the hospital that still allows her to have a position of influence.
United Medical Center is a non-profit community hospital located in the Southeast quadrant of D.C. The hospital is often in the local news for its lack of inadequate resources to care for those with serious medical needs, but Ms. Williams said that did not deter her from taking a position with the hospital. “I go where the need is,” she said. “I live in this community, raise a family in this community and if need is in my community then that’s where I need to be,” she said.
The opportunity came to her and she answered the call. She said her vision for the hospital is to see it function as a full-service hospital that has doctors who can meet the needs of the community. She said the hospital is currently in a transition period, where a team is conducting a full assessment of hospital and based on its findings, will present a strategic vision for the hospital.
Before Ms. Williams could catch the vision for the hospital, she had to envision her own. A recent survivor of breast cancer, Ms. Williams says that she put off her mammogram for two years. “While I was running for office I had two separate doctor appointments and I cancelled them both,” she said. Not until her mother came to D.C. to visit her did she actually go and get tested, but only after her mother’s insistence. She said two weeks later she got the call that there was an abnormality and a series of test followed, eventually revealing a tumor in her left breast. She made the decision to remove both of her breasts and in October of 2012 she had the surgery. By December of the same year she began her new position at UMC.
“Breast cancer is a silent killer among women of color. White women are more prone to get it, but we die more from it because of our lack of testing,” she said. She urged that more women of color have to get tested regularly and because of her journey she began the Natalie Williams Breast Care Foundation, where the mission is to promote breast care awareness among women of color. Founded in January of 2013 her foundation focuses on the overall promotion of healthy breast care targeted to African-American, Latino, Hispanic, African and Caribbean communities across the globe.
According to the American Cancer Society, by the age of 40 it is recommended that every woman get a mammogram, however if your family has a history of breast cancer then earlier testing between ages 30-35 is recommended. Additionally women may began self-exams in their early 20s by noticing how their breasts normally feel and reporting any changes in their breasts promptly to their medial officials.
Ms. Williams said she started her foundation because she “noticed a void to focus on black women as it pertains to breast cancer.” “In our community we need targeted, bold messages” and this foundation will focus on that. Most recently the foundation has expanded its base to St. Lucia, where they will head a weeklong breast cancer awareness mission in August 2013. The foundation is expecting more than 250 women to get screened. Further her goal for the foundation is to take the message to the African continent, reaching different countries. The foundation recently purchased mammography machines and hopes to travel abroad to allow women in Africa to get tested. “Overall, I am focused on improving the health of our community, serving as a true example that it doesn’t have to be a death sentence if we get in front of it by getting tested,” she said.”
To find out more how you can become involved with her foundation please visit www.supportbreastcare.org