Magazine Feature / People

Retiree finds passion in activism

Retiring after 30 years of teaching was a new beginning for JoAnn (Corbett) Huff (BA ’51). Huff used her newfound free time to volunteer at the Cancer Research Center in Albuquerque, N.M. A breast cancer survivor since 1977, when Huff took up the cause, she found a whole new motivation.

In New Mexico, Huff says getting people in rural areas access to health care is a particular concern. In order to improve treatment access, Huff lobbied for the mandated mammogram bill, which funded mammograms by increasing the cigarette tax. In 1990 the bill passed, and Huff was hooked.

Her passion for breast cancer awareness “started as a kind of evolution, like a snowball going down hill,” she says.

In 1991 Huff was among the first women to visit the U.S. Congress for increased breast cancer research funding with the National Breast Cancer Coalition. Every May since then Huff has returned to Washington, D.C. to make breast cancer a priority, and in September of 1995, she was included in the Congressional Record.

Over the last 16 years, she says she’s seen awareness grow and the “whole scene of cancer change.”

Huff also participates in the coalition’s research panels through the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program. The program offers funding to researchers, and mixed panels of scientists and breast cancer survivors review the proposals.

National Breast Cancer Coalition field director Sharon Ford-Watkins says Huff “supports us in many varied and tremendous ways. She’s an incredible advocate.”

Along the way Huff accumulated awards, including the Outstanding Woman of New Mexico, Woman of the Year by the YWCA, Lifetime Achievement Award from the New Mexico governor and Woman’s Day magazine’s Shining Star.

Of all her accomplishments, Huff says she is most proud of going to Washington and “being a voice for the people who have no voice.”

“Staying at it all these years helps make a believer out of you. You can make a difference in government,” she says.


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