M. Carolina Hinestrosa, the Fiscal Year 2009 (FY09) Chair of the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program (BCRP) Integration Panel, died June 21, 2009, from soft tissue sarcoma, a late side effect of the radiation that was used to treat her initial breast cancer in 1994. Carolina experienced a recurrence of breast cancer in 2001.
Carolina was born on March 7, 1959, in Bogota, Colombia, and came to the United States as a Fulbright Scholar in 1985. She earned a Master of Arts in Economics from Western Illinois University and after graduation she worked as a strategic planning analyst and corporate planning director in Colombia and New Zealand before moving to the Washington, DC metropolitan area. After her breast cancer diagnosis in 1994, Carolina recognized a need for a support and outreach program for Latinas with breast cancer in Washington, DC. With an ardor for action that she would demonstrate throughout her career as a breast cancer advocate, she co-founded Nueva Vida, an organization that provides culturally sensitive cancer support services for the Latina community. In 1998, Carolina joined the Board of Directors of the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) and became the executive Vice President of Programs and Planning for that organization in 2004. She was passionate about the NBCC's mission of winning the war against breast cancer and, as a board member, she vigorously challenged the status quo in cancer research and helped transform the breast cancer research landscape. She often said she was driven to end the disease for her daughter, Isabel.
In 2001, Carolina earned a Master of Public Health degree with a concentration in health policy from The George Washington University. She served on the National Quality Forum, the Ethical Task Force of the American Medical Association, the National Action Plan on Breast Cancer Consumer Involvement Working Group, and on panels for the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine. In 2005, she organized NBCC's workshop on biomarker research and was integral in the publication of the first and, to date, only advocate-authored article published in the journal Nature Reviews Cancer.
Carolina first became a BCRP Integration Panel member in 1998 and served as the Chair of the Panel in FY04 and again in FY09. She once said of the program, "The Breast Cancer Research Program channels powerful synergy from the collaboration of the best and brightest in the scientific world with the primary stakeholder, the consumer, toward bold research efforts aimed at ending breast cancer." She was a steadfast and strong voice for consumers in her role as panel member and Chair as she challenged BCRP investigators to unravel the old paradigms and reveal the untapped ideas that could lead to the eradication of breast cancer.
Carolina enlivened any room she entered with her energy and elevated it with her grace. Even as her health declined, her tireless and unwavering pursuit of a breast cancer-free future masked the severity of her condition to those who worked with her. She has left an enduring legacy in every organization she touched. To honor Carolina's passion, courage, and dedication to breast cancer advocacy and research, the BCRP dedicates its efforts in the upcoming year to her memory.