Behind the Research: Inspired women’s health research

Behind the Research: Inspired women’s health research


– My name is Rachel Mayo. I’m a professor in the
department of public health sciences here at Clemson. My area of research is women’s health, and I do work with women’s cancer and also moms who are addicted to opioids. I think for me, it
started when I was very, very young, going to my grandmother’s farm in rural Arkansas. My grandmother only
finished the 10th grade, but she had this just tremendous level of knowledge and education, and she was very much self-taught. She read everything she
could get her hands on about health, and people
turned to her in the community, in this very rural farming community. She was sort of a lay
midwife, if you will, in the region, and people would call on her
in the middle of the night, and they would knock on the door. She was known as Miss Rachel. And they would ask her, say,
please come, Miss Rachel. We have a baby that needs to be delivered, and she would go to
people’s homes and do that, regardless of the color of their skin. And that was kind of
really ground breaking for people in her generation, but she helped people
regardless of who they were. And so when I was growing up, I would hear these
stories about Miss Rachel, and they would always tell me
stories about my grandmother, but that’s kind of how I learned a love for health and a love
for helping other people. So when I had this opportunity
to work in women’s cancer, I started thinking a lot
about my own grandmother and how… So I’d been working in breast
and cervical cancer control and doing work in South
Carolina for about 20 years, and then I was diagnosed three years ago, and that came as a surprise,
because I was young. You don’t expect someone
who’s young and healthy to get breast cancer. But I was, I remember being on the couch and listening to Joan
Lunden tell her story, and I thought, you know, I
kind of, I have this lump, but I’ll get it checked out later. And I realized, you know,
this is the same thing I tell women in the community not to do. So I made an appointment
that week with my provider, and that kind of started the ball rolling. So it was breast cancer,
but I’m doing well, and you know, I’m happy that
I can kind of spread my story now and try to help other women. I think my grandmother means to me being inquisitive, being a risk taker, being a hard worker, and
treating people with respect, but she was also a really strong woman. I mean, one of my funniest
memories of her was after my grandfather had passed away, and so she lived on this
rural farm by herself, and I mean, it was miles from a paved road or from a neighbor. And we had come to visit one Sunday, and she’d, it was in the middle of summer, and she took a shotgun
with her to the outhouse, because she didn’t have
indoor plumbing at the time. And I couldn’t understand
why she would need a gun for the outhouse, and
the next thing I knew, we heard the gun going off
because of the occasional rattlesnake that she might find. I mean, she was just a strong woman, and not afraid of anything.

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