Robyn Towt and Terri Diaz first met in September 2018 when they were paired as roommates on an advocacy trip where they were invited to speak at an FDA meeting about breast implants. This was one of the first meetings in recent years in which the FDA addressed growing concerns about breast implant safety. Since then, Robyn and Terri have been advocating and raising awareness for safe medical devices and improved patient outcomes.
Robyn and Terri began connecting with other patient advocates all over the world; this prompted the idea of creating a global network of advocates to implement changes, promote education, and empower others to advocate for themselves and others.
GPAC is committed to working collaboratively to endorse, support, and empower our global patient advocates by implementing positive changes in each country, utilizing the skills and network of each of our amazing colleagues.
GPAC is working to ensure that every patient is given the proper safety information to make an educated and informed decision about their medical procedures.
Meet Our GPAC Team Members
Robyn Towt | USA
Robyn is a breast cancer survivor and former teacher.. She was diagnosed in 2017, had a double mastectomy and reconstruction with Mentor Silicone breast implants which caused an array of debilitating health issues. Robyn had explant surgery after just four months of having implants and her symptoms completely resolved. This experience led her to become an advocate for raising awareness about breast implant safety.
Melissa Puryear | USA
Melissa Puryear is a breast cancer survivor. She opted for a bilateral mastectomy to prevent the risk of a future cancer diagnosis. In December 2016 she had Allergan Natrelle Inspira Gummies placed under the muscle, which had not yet met FDA clearance. By the fall of 2020 it was obvious her health was in severe decline, and she moved across country to be nearer to her mother. By Spring 2021, only two weeks prior to a scheduled enbloc explant, she was dying. She was admitted to a VA Hospital ICU where they stabalized her, after her heart was flatlining. The ER doctor and the ICU doctor were conflicted as to the cause. They were unaware about sensitization, and toxicity overload, or heart arithymias and dangers that women experience with breast implants. Melissa met Robyn over a phone conversation after Robyn shared about an upcoming FDA trip about new legislation regarding the Black Box Warning on Facebook. Melissa became instantly intrigued with the team of women who were showing a united front against breast implant misinformation. She promised Robyn she would help in whatever capacity she could when she regained her health. Melissa kept that promise and joined GPAC as an investigator in 2022, using her journalism and communication experience to bring awareness to these devices that pose an incalculable risk. To learn more about Melissa's story, click here. Melissa's Story Melissa's Journalism
Heidi Brown | USA
Director Community Outreach
Heidi has been an active member of the Bii community since 2018. She is an administrator in the Arizona Breast Implant Illness & Information Facebook support group and she is passionate about awareness and education about breast implants and other medical devices. She works in the healthcare community and is committed to always putting patients first. Heidi had breast implants for 19 years and her health continued to decline; she was planning her funeral when she found out about Breast Implant Illness. She had her implants removed and her health has improved dramatically, she has first-hand knowledge and experience about the effects of implant illness. She advocates daily, where life brings her and we are thrilled to have her as a part of our GPAC team.
Shane Cook | Australia
Co-Founder, GPAC Mesh
Shane Cook is a passionate patient advocate who was harmed by hernia mesh and is actively working to create policy changes in Australia. Shane has notably gotten the attention of legislators in Parlaiment to raise awareness about the serious and long standing impacts in patients who have been harmed by surgical mesh. Shane is commited to helping to ensure that the Australian government is providing the highest quality of patient care and holding manufacturers accountable for patient harm. Here is Shane's experience that he would like to share. I became a Patient Advocate in 2020 after a botched hernia repair in 2016 that left me bedridden for 3.5 years, along with the medical gaslighting and continued denials that the implant was the cause of my debilitating symptoms. When I asked for it to be removed, I was told that there was nothing wrong with the mesh, that no surgeon would remove it for me, and told I needed to get use to living with the pain. I was encouraged to use my Right to a Quality of Life to force a surgeon to remove the mesh implant against his strong advice not to remove it, as he didn't believe he could fix what was wrong with me. I had a significant improvement to my quality of life after the mesh was removed, and knew I had to do something to prevent others suffering the same torture. I chose to become a Patient Advocate after being a part of many support groups and seeing how many others are in the same boat I was, and being denied the help and support I was neglected of. My experience left me feeling abused and abandoned by the same system that is meant to improve our health, and not do any harm, and that led to feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, feeling insignificant, that my life didn't matter, and I was only existing so the pain could exist, which also led to bouts of deep depression, and suicidal thoughts. I don't want others to continue through the same torturous cycle I found myself in due to systemic failures, and ignorance of our symptoms being related to our mesh implants. To strengthen my advocacy and increase my chances of creating the changes I seek, I joined the Labor Party as a representative of all mesh injured patients. To date, my advocacy in Australia has led to debate in State and Federal Parliaments on the issues of consent for hernia repairs, where the consent was updated to include all the known risks and complications associated with a hernia repair with a separate list of added risks when mesh is used. My advocacy has also led me to becoming a support person and guide for others going through similar situations, as well as meeting other wonderful advocates who are committed to improving patient outcomes and safety. My first goal of improving informed consent in Australia is complete, but there are many other goals that I'd like to achieve, such as support clinics, Redress, and changing the scope of surgical practices, or even introducing a new speciality, which would prevent the harm currently occurring due to the current system and lack of surgical expertise and knowledge of the anatomy. My ultimate goal and commitment is to improve patient outcomes, prevent further harm, provide support and compensate those already harmed by these implants or poorly executed procedures. I believe that nobody should ever be left to suffer in silence after a failed medical intervention. I joined the wonderful ladies of GPAC, because I see the importance of expanding my advocacy globally and working with those who have the same compassion and commitment to improving patient outcomes.
Terri Diaz | USA
Terri is a breast implant illness survivor who has been harmed by breast implants. Terri became involved in patient safety advocacy after experiencing a 10-year debilitating illness due to an adverse reaction to breast implants placed in 2006. Terri was not informed of the side effects associated with breast implants at the time of implant.
Julie Christie | Canada
Investigative Researcher and Content Creator
Julie Christie was 17 years old in 1988, when a doctor influenced her by telling her that her uneven breasts were a congenital defect and that with a simple breast augmentation surgery this problem would be corrected Julie believed the surgeon's words when she told her, "It's good for life and no one will notice." Her doctor failed to tell her about the negative consequences that could happen to her health. After 30 years with breast implants, Julie's health dramatically declined. In 2019 she discovered breast implant illness and felt betrayed. Since then, she has joined her voice with other breast implant victims who have become supportive in order to publicize the significant gaps in falsified or unavailable information to the general public. Actions must be taken by medical authorities, and laws must be changed by government authorities. Health professionals must be educated and updated with new data on the subject, and the population must be informed of their rights. Shouldn't their duties be to all walk in the same direction, to protect our health?
Heather Hayes | USA
Co-Founder, GPAC Mesh
Heather Hayes is a breast cancer survivor. She is a co-founder of GPAC for mesh. She is an avid researcher, is adamant about changing informed consent laws, works with women diagnosed with breast cancer, those considering or having already had cancer reconstruction, is a passionate mesh patient advocate and she provides information and assistance to patients who are suffering from adverse effects of Diep/Sgap tissue flap reconstruction, mesh and/or any other medical device implants. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she chose to have DIEP and SGAP flap tissue reconstruction to avoid having foreign body/silicone breast implants. Unfortunately, her surgeon failed to inform her that what he called an “all-natural tissue flap reconstruction” would include the use of stainless steel and plastic blood vessel coupler devices, countless titanium alloy surgical liga/hemo clips, silicone blood vessel cuffs, synthetic polypropylene surgical mesh and many other types of permanent and dissolvable sutures, staples, none of which were disclosed prior to surgery. Heather woke up from her cancer reconstruction with immediate adverse reactions to surgery. She suffered DIEP flap complications, the worst being denervation of her abdominal wall. Severed critical motor nerves paralyzed her rectus muscles causing permanent abdominal damage requiring many additional surgeries. She became disabled suffering from a chronic inflammatory Autoimmune Syndrome from the medical devices permanently implanted. Over the years her immune system started attacking her healthy tissue/organs as it fought to get rid of the plastic, silicone and metals implanted. This has caused numerous complications including chronic infections, reactivation of latent viruses and multiple autoimmune diseases (ASIA Syndrome/CIRS, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, Fibromyalgia, Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, Sjogren’s, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Mitochondria dysfunction). Heather continues to struggle with illnesses caused by these foreign body medical devices implanted. She has not been able to find a surgeon who will remove all the medical devices that were permanently implanted in her without her knowledge or consent, even though she has been told that explanting all the medical devices implanted is the only chance she has to recover her health.
Patty McCormick | USA
Co-Founder, GPAC Mesh
Senior Program Manager
Patty McCormick has vast experience in program management. She has luckily avoided breast cancer, breast implants, surgical mesh, and any other medical implants, but she has had several friends who have had their health/lives significantly negatively affected as a result of breast implant illness and adverse complications from mesh implants. As such, she has joined GPAC to provide program management support in their efforts to advocate for a Patient Decision Checklist that will ensure informed consent prior to surgeries where mesh will be used.