Ivis Sampayo is one of those stand-out women who can turn a personal passion into a world-changing impact.
As her mother told her as a little girl growing up with her two sisters in Spanish Harlem, “When we are cut, we all bleed the same color.”
Ivis truly took this message to heart! She has been a leader at the very forefront of the fight against healthcare disparities for women of color and underserved women for over 25 years. Fortunately, awareness is now building for this devastating issue, but Ivis was creating highly effective initiatives long before it became a national focus.
A two-time breast cancer survivor, Ivis cancer journey began when even as a young, bilingual, outspoken Latina mother with access to good health care, her cancer was misdiagnosed for more than a year. As Ivis explains, “This experience changed the focus of my life’s work and ever since, I’ve been advocating and educating women, especially the underserved, to ensure we all have the chance to live full and productive lives as I have been so fortunate to do.”
The first thing Ivis decided to do to help others was to join SHARE, a small New York-based nonprofit with a mission to support, educate, and empower women, so no one has to face breast, ovarian, uterine, or metastatic breast cancer alone.
As her sons grew up and as she was able to celebrate their important milestones with her husband and family, she was inspired to create and build initiatives at SHARE to fight the fear of cancer screenings and help women advocate for themselves and each other.
At SHARE, she first worked on the then-fledgling LatinaSHARE program with its founder Alexandra Colon. It was aimed to serve monolinguistic Latinas with breast cancer. Ivis and a dedicated team that included Maria Estrella and Jennie Santiago grew LatinaSHARE into a highly effective cancer program network and outreach to Spanish speaking women. Today LatinaSHARE provides support groups, helplines, educational presentations, patient navigation and community outreach.
Then, ten years ago, Sampayo launched a similar program for African American women. AfroSHARE trains Black cancer survivors to reach medically underserved women in their neighborhoods about the signs, symptoms and diagnostics of cancer.
One of Ivis’ most creative undertakings was introducing SHARE Novelas, a style-like comic book to help counteract myths and fears in underserved communities, which served as barriers to screenings and diagnoses. Ivis had loved comic books when she was young, and her mother always read Novelas. She has now created a continuously growing series of highly relatable stories published in Spanish and English that help women receive the information that they need to recognize signs and symptoms of reproductive cancers and pursue the medical support they need. These Novelas provide a unique approach to communicating with women in their cultural context and removing the threat of harder-hitting cancer communications.
Excitingly, in recognition of her profoundly meaningful work, Ivis was recently promoted to SHARE’s first Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Director of Public Outreach.
Today, she enjoys her life in the Hudson Valley with her family and a vast network of friends. She helps SHARE touch the lives of women and their caregivers over 200,000 times each year – expanding the organization’s reach in the time of the pandemic and helping to ensure women with reproductive cancers don’t get sidelined or isolated in these challenging times. For more information on SHARE go to sharecancersupport.org