This month, we got to hang out with Betsy Nilan, a longtime Dagne Dover friend and supporter. Betsy is the President of The Get In Touch Foundation, a global breast health nonprofit that educates girls and boys of all ages on how to get in touch with their bodies and perform breast self-examinations.
Tell us more about the Daisy Wheel Program.
The Daisy Wheel Program was started 14 years ago when my mom first founded The Get In Touch Foundation organization. She had been doing breast self-exams her whole life, so she went to the doctor when she found a lump on her breast. The doctor told her not to worry about it and to come back in a year, saying it was probably nothing, but she was able to speak from a place of confidence and know that something was not right. She went to another doctor and found out she had cancer in both breasts. With that, she realized she had to tell me and my younger sister. I was 13 at the time. She had to teach us how to do breast self-exams because we were never going to receive that information in school. Going back to the root of that problem, why were we never going to receive that information? She was in disbelief and talked to many different people in the health world, from her gynecologist to her breast surgeon to pediatricians, and there was nothing that existed in terms of that type of education. So she worked with all of them to create the Daisy Wheel program, which teaches how to do breast self-exams in 8 simple steps and is completely free to schools all over the world.
Nurses and health educators can go to our website and specify the number of Daisy Wheels that they need, and we ship them right to their school for free. With those, they’re able to teach breast self-examinations to their students. Plus, we have free resources on our website, as well as our newly-launched Daisy Wheel App. While the Daisy Wheel Program is only for students in grades 5 through 12, the app is available for everyone. In different parts of the country, talking about breasts is taboo, and sex ed, which would include breast self-exams, isn’t taught. The app allows those who live in these districts or attend these schools to receive access to this sort of education. They can download the app on their own, and it’s the perfect way to reach people more effectively. Literally everyone has breast tissue. Some people think that this is just for women and girls but it’s not. In the first week, we had over 1,000 people in 26 countries download the app. So that was amazing! I’m really excited to see where it goes.
Who is your biggest mentor?
My mom is definitely my biggest mentor. Even though she’s not here today, everything she taught me still lives on. I still live by everything she taught and the different ways she inspired me. Since I’ve stepped into the role of president, I find that when I take a certain direction and it fails, I recall Mom talking about it and it all comes back to me. She is my biggest inspiration. She taught me that you can find joy in everything. She walked through life with such a positive attitude, even though she lived with cancer for so long.
How did it feel to become President of a foundation at such a young age?When I look back on it, of course I was going to step into the role of president. But at the time, my mom was really sick. Then once she passed away, the idea of stepping into the role was no longer daunting. Nothing was going to be as difficult as my mom passing away. I was young. I’m female. I had pink hair. At first I was nervous people wouldn’t take me seriously. But they did because I did.
It was daunting at first. But I have found my voice. The organization has found its voice. And we have a really great team working with us. When you have all of those things, it definitely helps get the mission out.
What’s the best career advice you received?
Focus on one thing, and do it well—really well. I remember when I first stepped up as president, there were so many different ideas. The board of directors had so many ideas, and everyone who wanted to help had so many ideas, and I was so overwhelmed. But then when it came down to it, we decided to keep everything focused on our Daisy Wheel Program, and that truly helped us so much. Do one thing and do it really well.
When do you feel most empowered?
When I can use my voice for good. That ties into my role with The Get In Touch Foundation, encouraging people to be their own health advocates and reminding them that they know their own bodies better than anyone else. Only you know your normal.
What has been the most badass moment of your life?
When we reached one million students with the Daisy Wheel Program. That’s one million students around the world that have held our Daisy Wheel, have learned about breast self-examination. That education is priceless. Knowing that is pretty amazing. They will carry that education with them forever, and maybe teach their kids the importance of that one day.
What is your greatest character strength?
Seeing other people’s perspectives and how they approach things. Whether it be user experience and how they approach the app or looking at cultures and how they function [Betsy graduated UVA with a degree in anthropology], that has really helped in developing the app because different cultures approach breast self-exams very differently.
What’s the goal for the Get In Touch Foundation for 2019?
The next big milestone is to reach one million people with our app. I don’t know how long that’s going to take, but I’m going to strive for it immediately.
What’s up ahead in your personal life?
I recently got engaged, so that was a huge moment for me! And I just won the lottery for the New York City Marathon, so I’m training for that.