Grand Prize Winner, Non-Physician Healthcare Professional

Physician assistant honored for her global commitment to cancer prevention and treatment

As a young girl living in her homeland of Nigeria, Eucharia Iwuanyanwu vividly recalls the pain her grandfather had to endure while suffering with gastrointestinal cancer, a disease that eventually took his life. Now a physician assistant at Houston's M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, she has converted the tragedy and helplessness she experienced into a passion to educate the public about cancer and implement systems for early cancer detection, diagnosis and treatment.

For the groundbreaking work Iwuanyanwu has performed globally, she is one of 10 national honorees to win the Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award in 2008. The award is granted by Cherokee Uniforms to recognize nurses and other non-physician healthcare professionals who demonstrate exceptional service, sacrifice and innovation and have a positive impact on others' lives. This is the 6th year Cherokee Uniforms has honored inspirational caregivers, with hopes that the winners' stories will encourage the nation's brightest students to enter the healthcare professions.

"The light I see in my patients' eyes and their smiles of gratitude keep me going. Knowing that I make a difference on a daily basis, no matter how small, makes it all worth it."

"Eucharia Iwuanyanwu's compassion and dedication to people at their point of greatest medical need is profoundly evident by her global humanitarian efforts. She gives all that she has to sustain her mission of cancer prevention, testing and early diagnosis," says Wendell Mobley, who directs the company's charitable and scholarship programs.

In October 2007, Iwuanyanwu organized an African Educational Cancer Conference in Abuja, Nigeria, in collaboration with the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center for Research in Minority Health. That same month, she planned a cancer-awareness medical mission to Katsina, Nigeria.  Hundreds of people had the opportunity to be screened for cancer and educated on cancer prevention and the need for early detection. Some of those screened required immediate surgery, which was performed by a surgeon in the mission group. Others were given medication they would not have received on their own. Iwuanyanwu's efforts have made such a difference in the lives of the residents of Nigeria that the First Lady of Nigeria and the Minister of Health are developing a national cancer prevention program to continue the physician assistant's goal for a healthier Africa. Iwuanyanwu does not receive any compensation for her work dedicated to Africa and uses vacation time for her outreaches.  

In her spare time, Iwuanyanwu is writing a book to help newly diagnosed cancer patients understand and know what to expect when they learn they have cancer and how to remain positive throughout the treatment process. She also founded a medical nonprofit whose mission is to eliminate cancer in Africa through early screening, detection and prevention.

When asked what inspires her to give her best, Iwuanyanwu replies, "The light I see in my patients' eyes and their smiles of gratitude keep me going. Knowing that I make a difference on a daily basis, no matter how small, makes it all worth it."

She was nominated by Diane Barber, one of her colleagues, a nurse practitioner at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, who has observed Iwuanyanwu's selfless devotion first hand for more than four years. As a Grand Prize Winner in the award's Non-Physician Healthcare Professional category, Iwuanyanwu receives an all-expense-paid Caribbean cruise for two, a wardrobe featuring the best of Cherokee Uniforms and Cherokee Footwear worth more than $1,000 and a trophy. She will also be featured in Cherokee's nationally distributed 2009 Inspired Comfort Award calendar.

Since the Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award was established in 2003, nearly 7,000 healthcare professionals have been nominated in the Registered Nurse, Advanced Practice Nurse, Licensed Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse, Student Nurse and Non-Physician Healthcare Professional categories. A panel of Cherokee representatives and past Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award recipients evaluates nominations and grants the awards.

For every nomination, Cherokee Uniforms donated $1 to Nurse's House, a national fund that provides short-term financial assistance to registered nurses facing serious hardship. Proceeds from Cherokee Uniforms products support healthcare professionals through initiatives such as the Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award, an annual calendar and the A Nurse I Am Film and Scholarship Program. Cherokee Uniforms will be accepting nominations for the 2009 Cherokee Inspired Comfort Award beginning March 1st through May 31st, 2009.

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