Inspiring Day in Pittsburgh
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
The program's description for Ms. Heinz's morning talk was "Opening Address." While that leaves plenty of room for interpretation, I don't think any of the 2,000+ listeners of the Women's Health and the Environment Conference expected to hear an intimate, candid first-hand account of the experiences Ms. Heinz has had leading up to and following her fall 2009 diagnosis with breast cancer.
Courage and determination helped her to progress this far; however the life-long environmentalist and philanthropist attributed her endless drive for information as a necessary asset in her continuing journey to being healthy and cancer-free.
These themes were carried throughout the day as leading environmental health experts from across the country (and Canada) explored what we need to make the changes that are most needed for our planet and our health.
Dr. Regina Benjamin, US Surgeon General spoke immediately following and highlighted similar stories of bravery she has seen in her years of practice, such as a patient who worked to keep schools clean for children at the risk of her own health. Dr. Bemjamin highlighted the Obama Administration's commitment to reform that will take the burden off individuals who are carrying the weight of other's pollution.
Panel discussions explored research on topics ranging from bisphenol-A to environmental clean-up following Hurricane Katrina. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson echoed encouraging commitments to protecting human health from toxic pollution. As the mother of an asthmatic son, she is very familiar with the burden that diseases with environmental triggers can have on children and their families.
Much appreciation was shown for the newly introduced Safe Chemicals Act of 2010 introduced in the US Senate last week by Sen. Frank Lautenberg.
Teresa Heinz took the podium for the closing statements, and exclaimed the sheer volume of hope she has from the recent progress of environmental science and its key issues. She reminded attendees that the US has had much darker days when there was less available research and resources to protect our health.
"Those days are gone; we are armed with science. This is a very hopeful time," said Ms. Heinz. The audience responded with a standing ovation.