Meet the Teacher Who Fueled Perry's HPV Fight

Heather Burcham devoted life to raising awareness
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Sep 23, 2011 6:00 AM CDT
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, back, tells Heather Burcham's story after introducing her at the Capitol in Austin in 2007.   (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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(Newser) – After she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, Houston teacher Heather Burcham decided to devote her life to raising awareness of the disease and the HPV vaccine—and one man she inspired was Rick Perry. The Texas governor befriended Burcham following his executive order that girls should receive the vaccine, the Daily Mail reports. He left the campaign trail to visit her bedside and spoke at her memorial service after she died in 2007.

Burcham’s “suffering had a purpose, and that purpose was to shine light on a groundbreaking vaccine that can protect our wives, sisters, and daughters from a deadly cancer,” Perry said at the service. While the two appear to have had a firm friendship, Perry misstated its terms at last week's Republican debate, ABC reports. He suggested Burcham “lobbied” for his support of the vaccine, when in fact he issued the order before meeting her. But she wouldn't likely appreciate his calling his stance a “mistake,” the Mail notes.

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