The Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition is thrilled its chairperson, Elisabeth Burgess (Libby), has been recognised in the 2011 New Year’s Honours.

Ms Burgess has become a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her work with women, their families and communities affected by breast cancer.

The Coalition’s deputy chair, Dr Chris Walsh, says the award is well-deserved.

“This recognises Libby’s passion, dedication and determination to improve the lives of women with breast cancer.

“She has been a tireless advocate for a world-class health system in New Zealand which offers the best detection and treatment of breast cancer available.

“Her commitment to this cause is unrivalled.  She is well-liked and respected by those in the breast cancer and health communities and we’re thrilled her efforts have been recognised.”

Ms Burgess is a 12-year survivor of breast cancer and was instrumental in forming the Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC) in 2004.

BCAC is a collective of 30 breast cancer-related groups and provides a united voice for all women with breast cancer in Aotearoa, New Zealand.  It strives to ensure world-class detection, treatment and care is available for women with breast cancer throughout the country.

The 54-year-old Ponsonby resident has been the chairperson of BCAC for the past five years and was instrumental in the following achievements:

  • Campaigning to see full Government funding for a 12-month treatment programme for the breast cancer drug, Herceptin
  • Advocating to establish, and helping to develop, guidelines for clinicians on the best practice treatment and management of early breast cancer
  • Helping to develop BCAC’s Step by Step support pack which is offered free of charge to every woman diagnosed with breast cancer in NZ
  • Seeking access for New Zealand women to the latest evidence-based breast cancer drugs, such as docetaxel and lapatinib
  • Working to ensure high quality immediate or delayed breast reconstruction is offered to all following mastectomy
  • Networking and collaborating to improve breast cancer outcomes for Māori women.

Libby combines her role as head of BCAC, with a full-time job as a scientist with Plant & Food Research.

She’s a born and bred Aucklander who hails from a sporting family.  Her brother Mark was a double international representative in cricket and soccer, captaining the New Zealand cricket team.  Her late father, Gordon, was awarded an OBE (ONZM) and her uncle Graham an MNZM for services to cricket. Her late mother, June, was a keen golfer and tennis player. 

Libby has also been involved in numerous sporting and community activities throughout the city. She shares her Ponsonby home with her partner Louise and three cats and they both enjoy bird-watching and golf.

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