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Community Advisory Board Spotlight: Lily Helzer

Lily Helzer, Allie Bain, Charlene Cariou, Brad Belnap, and Leah Merchant
Several Members of HCI’s Community Advisory Board left to right: Lily Helzer, MPH, Allie Bain, MPH, Charlene Cariou, MHS, Brad Belnap, MPP, and Leah Merchant.

Lily Helzer, MPH, is the chronic disease prevention and health promotion section manager of Nevada’s Department of Health and Human Services. She lives in Reno, Nevada, and works in collaboration with the Comprehensive Cancer Control Program and the Nevada Cancer Coalition to bring communities and partner organizations together to reduce the burden of cancer across Nevada.

Why did you decide to join the Community Advisory Board?
The Community Advisory Board presented an incredible opportunity to network with states similar to Nevada, identify resources for rural Nevadans, and participate in unique regional projects. The support and partnerships I have developed through the Community Advisory Board have been invaluable!

Garrett Harding, Cari Herington, and Lily Helzer
Garrett Harding, Assoc. Director, Community Outreach at HCI, Cari Herington, Executive Director, Nevada Cancer Coalition, Lily Helzer, Population Health Services Manager, Nevada Cancer Control Program.

What motivates you to do the work that you do in your community and in collaboration with your team?
As a native Nevadan, who—like all of us—has experienced cancer in my own family, I am motivated to help lessen the impact of that burden for all people in my community. I also have a dedicated and brilliant team who bring ambition and drive to work each and every day. I often describe our role in public health as "health ninjas": what we do behind the scenes is not often recognized, but with enough time and resources, we have an incredible impact on our communities.

What is your personal philosophy?
Collaboration and partnership are the work. If you can create and maintain meaningful partnerships and get individuals the tools they need, the rest of the work should fall into place for the most part.

What is one of your favorite or most impactful projects you have worked on over the course of your career?
I have been fortunate enough to explore a variety of approaches and topic areas within cancer control. This room for creativity has maintained my passion for public health work. In particular, I have had the incredible opportunity to plan, implement, evaluate, and expand the Sun Smart Nevada program for skin cancer prevention.

We are also in the process of implementing ThriveNV, a multifaceted survivorship program we have been developing since 2016. The opportunity to see these programs through, from planning to maintenance and expansion, has been incredible.

However, I am most proud of the relationships I have established over the course of my career. I get to work with incredible people every day, many of whom have become close friends. Partnerships have had the greatest impact on my work and on my personal life.

What do you love most about living and working in Nevada?
I love the community. For work, public health in Nevada has great potential for growth and creativity. For living, the opportunity for adventure and recreation is truly incredible. I am thrilled to raise a family here in much the same manner I was raised—surrounded by community and opportunity.

The Community Advisory Board comprises 36 members from Utah and the Mountain West who serve as Ambassadors of Huntsman Cancer Institute. The board provides strategic input to prioritize work and engage the community in cancer research, services, and prevention efforts.

Cancer touches all of us.