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October 22: Geri Barish
Geri Barish: Advocate of Preventative Breast Cancer Research
President, 1 in 9: The Long Island Breast Cancer Action Coalition and Executive Director, Hewlett House Achievements: As founder of 1 in 9, Barish fights for legislation and research to determine the causes of breast cancer.

Geri Barish has been at the forefront of the battle against breast cancer on Long Island since 1988, and has earned the distinction of being New York State’s preeminent breast cancer activist.

Geri is no stranger to the pain and torment of cancer, as she is a breast cancer survivor, and her son, Michael, lost his life at the young age of 25 from complications of Hodgkin’s disease. Geri promised Michael that she would dedicate her life to finding the causes and cures for cancer, and she has done so to this day.

As president of 1 in 9, Geri spearheaded negotiations of New York State’s Pesticide Registry Law, which created an accessible database to determine whether there is a relationship between pesticide use and breast cancer. In March 1997, she spoke in Albany for the bipartisan “Mastectomy Bill,” which passed in both the Senate and the Assembly. Significantly, Geri stood side by side with Senator Alfonse D’Amato, New York State Senator Joseph Bruno, Majority Leader and Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver, Mrs. Libby Pataki and the entire delegation to announce the passing of the bill. On March 29, 1997, Governor and Mrs. Pataki came to the State Supreme Court in Mineola to sign the bill into law.

Her appointment as executive director of Hewlett House fulfills a dream and vision Geri had when she began her own struggle with breast cancer. Geri vowed that, given the opportunity, she would make sure that no one would have to go through what she did: battling this dreadful disease alone. Hewlett House is a multi-purpose, professionally staffed facility in a home-like setting, for cancer victims and their family and friends. It is a central place offering information, counseling and meetings, where a pot of coffee is always on the stove and a listening ear available. As executive director, Geri oversees the entire operation of Hewlett House, including the fund-raising efforts and volunteers.

Geri’s dedication and perseverance have resulted in increased national funding; the implementation of the Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project, the first scientific symposium held to determine whether there was a need for a separate Long Island study of breast cancer; and the establishment of the ongoing Michael Scott Barish Human Cancer Grant at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory for research into genetic mutations that could cause breast cancer, lymphoma and leukemia. In March 1997, Dr. Michael Wigler, the scientist supported by that grant, announced the discovery of the breast cancer gene P-TEN. To date, 1 in 9 has donated almost $1 million!

Geri is a member of the National Action Plan Personal Risk Factors Committee, the Governor’s Health Task Force, the Ad-Hoc Committee of Cornell University and the Department of Environmental Conservation on Breast Cancer and Environmental Risk Factors, and the American Cancer Society’s “Reach To Recovery” Volunteers.