As part of the “Change Your World” series, in partnership with Walden University, GOOD spoke to Melissa Thomas about her career, her education, and the powerful way it has shaped her life and her community.

Melissa Thomas was just a young girl when she suffered a devastating loss—her beloved grandmother succumbed to cancer, a tragedy that was simultaneously heartbreaking and eye-opening. For Thomas, her grandmother’s passing solidified her life’s goal to address existing cancer health disparities. In 1997, Thomas founded Project Hoffnung (German for “hope”), an Ohio-based project aimed at addressing breast cancer issues facing Amish and Mennonite women. And, although she had great successes in expanding education and offering breast cancer screening services among these two populations, who have traditionally had particularly high death rates in this arena, she felt she could do more, and education was the way to do so. “I knew that I wanted to make a difference in the world,” Thomas says, “and Walden University’s Ph.D. in Public Health program helped provide the tools and support to realize my dream in saving lives from cancer.”

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