In 1992, on a routine flight to Los Angeles, flight attendant Venus Ginés slipped and fell, prompting a need for immediate medical attention. At the ER, the doctor asked Venus if she had gone for her mammogram yet, to which she replied, “No, I’m Latina, we Latinas don’t get breast cancer.” The doctor explained that cancer did not discriminate and offered her a clinical breast exam. To her shock, he found a lump, and she was diagnosed with cancer. Venus is now a 17-year breast cancer survivor. Her experience led her to pursue an MA in women’s studies at Georgia State University, focusing on cultural and system barriers faced by Latinas with breast cancer.
In 1996 Venus created Una Nueva Esperanza, a culturally specific video and picture book on breast cancer for the American Cancer Society (ACS). A health fiesta was the only way to determine if the picture book adequately addressed the fears and barriers of this at-risk population. So together with the ACS & the Mexican consulate, Venus organized the first non-traditional culturally relevant Latino family health fiesta, and Dia de la Mujer Latina (Latina Women’s Day) was born. The fiesta brought Latino clubs, private and non-profit organizations, state and county health departments, businesses, volunteers and healthcare providers together to provide early detection and screening for breast, cervical and prostate cancer, as well as HIV, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Día de la Mujer Latina, Inc. is now a national non-profit organization with a commitment to navigate the medically underserved Latina community to culturally and linguistically proficient health education, early detection screening, culturally-tailored preventive programs for chronic and communicable diseases, and clinical trials.
Since 1997 Venus has trained Latinos to become Promotores (Community Health Workers), and in 1998, introduced the Patient Navigator for DML health fiesta events. On Oct 23, 2009, Venus was invited to present at the White House by First Lady Michelle Obama in celebration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Today, Venus is a State Certified Promotores and Community Health Workers Instructor, and DML is a State Certified Training Program in Texas.
Venus Ginés is a faculty member of the Chronic Disease Prevention and Control Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. She is currently conducting research on Latino medical mistrust. Venus also co-founded the Intercultural Center for Health, Research & Wellness, a one-stop preventive care program in Atlanta, Georgia. She received her BA from California State University.