The San Diego Diplomacy Council welcomes back a former visitor!

February 25, 2011 at 3:54pm

Written by Mandy Simon, PR and Marketing Intern


Arabic interpreter Ragda Kurdy, Dr. May Al Mahayni and I at the Scripps Cancer Center’s 31st Annual Conference (Left to right)Arabic interpreter Ragda Kurdy, Dr. May Al Mahayni and I at the Scripps Cancer Center’s 31st Annual Conference (Left to right)


As an intern with the San Diego Diplomacy Council, I had the honor of meeting a Syrian woman who fights tirelessly for breast cancer awareness in her country. It was not her first stay in San Diego – Dr. May Al Mahayni who is the founder of the Syrian Breast Cancer Protection Society was invited back by the U.S. Department of State as a selectee for the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) Gold Stars’ Tour because of her enormous success as a result of her first visit here.


Together with 16 other international women leaders from the Middle East, Dr. May Al Mahayni was invited in 2007 by our U.S. Department of State IVLP to be part of a three week “Breast Cancer Awareness and Public Outreach” delegation.


One highlight of their stay was the participation in the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure in San Diego. Clearly impressed and inspired by the breadth of participation from all members of the community, Dr. May Al Mahayni put together a fundraising walk for breast cancer awareness in Damascus, Syria. The first one ever in her country!


The event drew 200 - 250 women and men, media attention, and private/public sector sponsorship. She and her colleagues continue to spread the world throughout their country about the importance of early detection and treatment. Furthermore, they have opened a center that provides moral support and information which is unheard of in the Middle East.


Now, four years later, the Diplomacy Council and I were delighted to welcome her back to San Diego and hear about the results from her initial visit here. At a reception in our new North Park office, we heard her stories, saw pictures of the Syrian walk and peppered her with questions. All guests were so impressed with her impact on Syrian society and changing the stigma of breast cancer to something they are willing to talk about.. Hugs all around. It was like welcoming a returning friend.


And for me personally, after being involved in the planning of her visit, I finally had the chance to meet Dr. May Al Mahayni for the first time. It was very exciting for me.


On Tuesday I had the privilege of escorting Dr. May Al Mahayni and her interpreter to the Scripps Cancer Center’s 31st Annual Clinical Hematology & Oncology Conference at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla Aventine.


My day started with a delicious breakfast at the hotel together with Dr. May Al Mahayni and her interpreter talking about Syria and the current situation in the Middle East.


I really enjoyed having the chance to talk about all the questions I had in mind in an easy-going manner – both ladies are just so bright and passionate! After breakfast, we joined the Conference in the ball room. As a result I learned more about different methods in the prevention and the treatment of breast cancer. What I found the most interesting, was a presentation by Dr. Debasish Tripathy focusing the role of botanicals in the management of breast cancer.


After the Conference Dr. May Al Mahayni and her interpreter had some time left until the next appointment and wanted to enjoy the lovely weather we had. So we walked along the beautiful La Jolla Shores beach, enjoyed our self-created yogurt from Yogurt Escape, and had great conversations about culture, politics and religion - what a perfect day!


Meeting Dr. May Al Mahayni and escorting her was definitely one of the highlights of my internship at the Diplomacy Council. I not only learned so much about an unfamiliar culture but also gained a broader knowledge of world political and social issues. It intensified my awareness of the meaningful impact that every single individual can bring to our world.