My Social Work Story

Morgan and her closest friends during a “night out.”

My social work story began in 2014 with a decision to go back to school. Little did I know, I was to be diagnosed with cervical cancer during my second semester. The diagnosis disrupted my life and turned it upside down. I was your typical “social” 24-year-old who loved going out with her best friends; a young professional working full-time as a dental assistant; and an ambitious nontraditional student attending school full-time.

Looking back, I really don’t know how I managed it all but in reality, I think it’s what kept me going.  I had something to look forward to in the future and helping people was my reward. Unfortunately, my cancer story didn’t end there. Nearly a year after my initial diagnosis, I was given a second cancer diagnosis. This time it was metastatic recurrent cervical cancer in my lungs. Even though the chemo was heavier and my body was impacted more, I did not quit.

Morgan cuddled up to her dog, Sassy, after a long day of classes.

I finished my treatments and graduated with my Associates in Liberal Arts just two weeks shy of entering the bachelor’s program at the University of Iowa School of Social work. I was terrified that I wasn’t going to be able to retain the information, but I proved myself wrong rather quickly. In the program, we were trained rigorously. We dove deep into the biopsychosocial aspects of humans. We were required to have a deeper knowledge in cultural competence and were faced to see our own implicit biases. After, we would process through as a cohort to understand why and have the opportunity to learn from each other.

Morgan posing with Herky on the University of Iowa Campus in Iowa City, IA.

After two years of a fast-paced program, I graduated with my Bachelor’s in Social Work. Then I immediately entered the Master’s program with the University of Iowa School of Social Work. When I started the program, I had the passion to be a medical oncology social worker. I wanted the opportunity to work with cancer patients and their families. I wanted to give back after getting through my own experience, however, after being in a macro-level program, it shifted my mindset on how I could still work with the population of my choice while advocating and creating change in the cancer community.

            It’s no secret that I fell in love with advocacy and what it is on a day-to-day basis. You see, I found Cervivor and attended a Cervivor School in the summer of 2017. I learned how to use my voice as a patient advocate and it only amplified as I became an educated social worker. It led me to becoming the 2018 Cervivor Champion Award Recipient, the 2019 Advocate of the Year for the Iowa American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and the 2020 Advocate of the Year for Above and Beyond Cancer.

After accepting the Cervivor Champion Award at the 2018 Cervivor School in Cape Copd, MA.
Volunteers with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network during the Iowa Day at the Hill event in 2019.
Dr. Richard Deming and Morgan filming the award segment for Above and Beyond Cancer in 2020.

My love for advocacy, cancer prevention, and macro-level social work falls right into place within the nonprofit world. We know nonprofits are vital to communities and often help build resiliency skills, raise awareness to specific issues, and make change happen. Social workers are a common thread amongst nonprofits and are community-based professionals. We assess the needs of the communities we serve, identify existing barriers, and develop sustainable programs or resources.

As I am stepping into the Community Engagement Liaison role for the organization, I look forward to serving our community. I intend to emphasize the importance of the word community and what it means to us as a whole. To listen to the needs of our community and bring support, resources, and programming to fulfill those needs. And last, but certainly not least, to continue raising awareness about our greater mission: “Ending cervical cancer is within our reach.”

Morgan is a metastatic cervical cancer survivor, Cervivor Ambassador, and a 3x award winning patient advocate. She lives in Iowa and is currently in the last two months of finishing her Masters in Social Work with the University of Iowa. She continues to advocate tirelessly in hopes her story can help others.

“We’re In!”

I started treatment for cervical cancer in spring of 2016. One of the first things I did was start searching for those with my cancer. When I found Cervivor, I immediately knew it was special.  It was a sisterhood of survivors, but they were also advocates! Cervivor was dedicated to eradicating our cancer. It wasn’t just a group of women looking for support, but it was a group of women who had been through it and were DOING something! I like to say that joining Cervivor and being trained at Cervivor School has given me advocacy wings.  I have had many opportunities both in my community and on the national level to participate in events as a Cervivor Ambassador. Most recently I was asked to represent our organization at the National HPV Vaccination Roundtable, in Atlanta. I had interacted on the Roundtable’s Facebook page, and felt like I had working knowledge of the collaboration. They are about stopping HPV…sign me up!

The Roundtable meeting began with a lunch. I arrived alongside Tamika Felder, Cervivor’s founder. The first thing I noticed was that we could hardly get to a spot at a table because everyone was wanting to speak with Tamika. They would greet her, as lifelong friends. Many of them had questions about Cervivor and other projects Tamika has in the works. Attendees were quickly inquiring about me and my role. They were interested in me as a Cervivor Ambassador and very excited to meet an HPV cancer survivor. I began to realize what it meant to be at this meeting. These were the countries top doctors, healthcare professionals, and researchers who had worked in this space for years! These were representatives from other organizations, our (Cervivor’s) partners in eradicating HPV and HPV related cancers! Tamika and Cervivor had been part of this collaborative group since it’s inception! I was so proud to be a part of a cancer nonprofit that is so well respected in this space. It further affirmed my initial feeling that when I found Cervivor, I found something special.

“Empowering Parents and Allies” task group

The meeting was an exciting two days packed with a lot of information and a lot of work! Each organization that is part of the Roundtable sends at least one representative. Those representatives are broken into task groups of their choosing. The task groups are just that, groups with an assigned task to help advance vaccination rates in the U.S. and spread awareness, education, and facts about HPV and the vaccine. The public educator in me was drawn to the “Empowering Parents and Allies” task group, as reaching families with knowledge is at the heart of many things I do. Most of the first day was spent in our task groups, reviewing previous work and annual goals, as well as setting new goals and collaborating with other task teams that may be partner groups in reaching these milestones. Our first evening was full of dinner presentations with updates from each task group and a celebration of the hard work and victories achieved by the Roundtable throughout the year.

The second day of the meeting was just as full. Each moment was packed with presentations from medical teams who are on the front line of vaccinating in the family practice setting, to panel discussions from research scientists on how the social media statistics can work in favor of our messaging. We had a working “Jeffersonian Lunch,” ensuring that time was purposeful and well spent. Every second was full of collaboration, information, and getting to the center of how we can change the HPV vaccination narrative in our country and strive to significantly reduce HPV cancer rates.To be honest there was so much information, that I joked with one of the other attendees at our table about how absolutely full my brain was by the end of lunch on day two. It felt as though it could not hold one more piece of information, fact, or even tidbit. I had officially hit my limit and the “meeting glaze” took over. You know, the glaze you get when the presenter’s voice starts sounding like the Charlie Brown teacher?

It was an honor to work with such an amazing group of professionals. My eyes were opened and faces were given to the people who are diligently working to spread the truth about HPV and a vaccine that is cancer prevention. How exciting to see the position that Cervivor holds among the nations top scientists, doctors, and cancer organizations. We are part of that! We are on the front lines of eradicating HPV! Cervivor is right there, side by side, elbow to elbow! We are rolling up our sleeves and deep into the space of changing the narrative on this virus and educating the public on how acting now can impact generations to come! I was so proud to be a part of this National Roundtable, but I was even prouder to be representing Cervivor. We’re in!


Holly Lawson is a two year cervical cancer survivor. Cancer has left her with many challenges, including Chronic Kidney Disease, but she is fighting for her survivorship and currently training with the Ulman Cancer Fund in the Cancer to 5K Program. She is an active Cervivor Ambassdor, who is finding healing in advocacy and sharing her story.