Triage Cancer Interview with Gabby Salinas, Cancer Survivor and Candidate for Tennessee Senate

Triage Cancer Interview with Gabby Salinas, Cancer Survivor and Candidate for Tennessee Senate

Can you tell our audience who you are and how you are involved with the cancer community?

My name is Gabby Salinas, I am a three-time cancer survivor who started her cancer journey at the age of 7. I grew up in the cancer community! As a teenager I started advocating for better health care laws because I found myself without options. While searching for health insurance options, I found that I was not alone in this struggle. In my local community, I have served on the patient advisory council at the hospital where I received my treatment. On the fun side of things, which is important, I have been a camp counselor at Camp Horizon, a camp for kids with cancer and their siblings! I started to Camp Horizon as a camper when I was young, so it is very special to come back as a counselor. I have also attended a First Descents (FD) trip, FD provides outdoor adventures for young adults impacted by cancer.  I love spending time with our community!

What led you to attend our first ever Triage Cancer Conference in Nashville, TN?

I try to be aware of every single resource that is available to the cancer community. I had already known about Triage Cancer, I think I attended one of the online webinars you did with the Samfund. I live in Memphis and happened to be in Nashville when the conference was taking place! I loved that you had both health care professionals as well as patients participating in the same conference! We need more conferences that have that approach.

What made the biggest impact on you after leaving our conference that day?

I know about a lot of resources in the cancer community, but I learned about several others at the meeting. For example, Cancer and Careers, I had never heard of them until the Nashville meeting. What a wonderful partnership! In our country our career is often our gateway to health insurance. I also loved that you encouraged attendees to vote and explained Medicaid expansion, which is a passion that Triage Cancer and I share.

You’ve recently decided to embark on the path of legislative advocacy by running for office. Can you speak to that decision and your experience so far?

The personal is political. Growing up in a pre-affordable healthcare act era, I got involved in the fight for health care access about a decade ago. I decided to run because I just got tired of elected officials not listening to healthcare advocates. Seeing my own elected official argue against Medicaid expansion at a committee meeting was one of the big motivators for me. My experience so far has been a positive one, I have met so many wonderful people along the way and I have learned a lot about my community and the people that live in it. My favorite part about running for office is meeting the voters!

What would you say to someone who wants to be a more involved advocate for the cancer community, but isn’t sure where to start?

Start where you are at, many hospitals have patient advisory councils or patient groups that work on improving patient care, that is a great place to start. Or you can start online, sign up for newsletters, I know Triage Cancer has a good newsletter. This is an easy way of knowing what is going on and receiving invitations to other events. Once you start receiving information and/or going to events you will find the right match for you. Like most things, sometimes it takes time and several tries to find your niche but don’t give up because patient voices are vital. If you are a health care professional or family member we need your help as well, there is plenty of work to go around! We need you as allies!

Tell us one of your goals for the next year?

I hope to be elected to the TN Senate and get to work right away for the people of my district and my state! My highest priority is passing Medicaid expansion in TN. Our state can’t afford not to expand Medicaid. We are losing out on $1.4 billion a year in federal money. And beyond the financial cost, there is a human cost. I also plan on continuing my PhD work, in the next year or so I hope to defend my thesis.

Learn more information about Gabby.

Learn more about engaging in cancer advocacy efforts.

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Samantha Skelton
ss@triagecancer.org