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Hayley Freedman’s BA’09 commitment to global citizenship brings life-saving care to East Africa

by Melanie Moyer,

At Willamette, Hayley Freedman’s BA’09 affinity for adventure and commitment to helping others was nurtured by transformative courses and meaningful relationships with faculty members. Now, Freedman helps communities in East Africa and beyond access life-saving cancer treatment at the American Cancer Society.

Initially studying Psychology, Freedman became a double major in Anthropology after taking a course with Associate Professor of Anthropology, African Studies and Public Health Joyce Millen during her first year. “She opened my eyes to what it means to think critically about being a global citizen,” Freedman said.

In her role as Program Manager for Global Capacity Development and Patient Support at the American Cancer Society in Washington, D.C., Freedman supports patients from diagnosis through the end of treatment and works to remove barriers to care.

This includes providing cancer education materials to help patients and families be more informed about decisions pertaining to their care. Her team also helps patients access services such as transportation and child care.

“The reality is cancer is not just a disease of the West,” Freedman says. “It's not just a disease of high-income countries. Cancer does not discriminate: over 70% of cancer deaths occur in low and middle-income countries.”

A founding member of the African Studies Club, Freedman spent a semester studying abroad at the University of Ghana, an experience that would go on to shape the rest of her career.

“I knew serving enriched my growth and learning around my career path,” she says. “I wanted to help communities lead happy and healthy lives.”

After serving in the AmeriCorps NCCC and later the Peace Corps in Mozambique, she earned a master’s degree in public health with a global health focus from the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom and the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

Before the first year of her master’s program, she discovered her mother was diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer.

“I developed a passion for supporting cancer patients and families through my own experience caring for my mother,” she says. “It was very serendipitous that a few years later an opportunity opened up at the American Cancer Society working on cancer in the global space.”

Freedman has maintained her relationship with the Willamette community throughout her professional career. This is her third year of returning to Professor Millen and Professor of French and Francophone Studies Amadou Fofana’s film studies class to discuss a Ugandan film about a woman who discovers she has cancer and what it means for her in her hometown.

“I fundamentally believe that Willamette gave me a way to think, be critical, care about people, and act on it,” she says. So, she encourages students to “work towards improving the lives of others, regardless of your field. Get out of your comfort zone. Everyone can contribute.”

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