Baptist Memorial Health Care is taking steps to address the gap in breast cancer care between African-American and Caucasian women by hiring Venecia Harris, a Mammography Disparity Coordinator, to increase the hospital’s mobile mammography unit in medically underserved areas and get life-saving breast health education to those who might not otherwise be able to access it.
“Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among black women,” said Harris. “According to a 2014 study by the Avon Foundation for Women, black women in Memphis are more than twice as likely to die from breast cancer as white women. The main contributing factors were lack of insurance, lack of informational resources, higher poverty rates, and a general lack of hope of recovery.”
“While Baptist has been very involved in proving easier access to care utilizing their mobile unit for almost 30 years now,” continued Harris, “we want to make sure women have access to mammograms, so we are trying to eliminate barriers to health care access, like lack of insurance and transportation. Our mobile mammography unit will be set up at civic centers, churches and businesses to the parking lots of grocery stores, to provide area women with a convenient way to get a mammogram.”
The funding for Harris’ position was part of a grant that Baptist received from the Avon Foundation. The goal of the Mobile Disparity Coordinator program is two-fold; to increase survival rates of those women diagnosed with breast cancer, and to give women a primary contact person to help coordinate their breast health care. Harris will handle scheduling follow-up care and recovery care if they are diagnosed
“Harris will be instrumental in providing breast health education, including appropriate counsel about mammography screening, and making sure the hospital’s mobile mammography unit, the first of its kind in the area, continues to have a strong presence in medically underserved areas,” said Valerie Burrow, Coordinator of Communications for BMHCC.
As Harris takes the lead in scheduling more public events areas across the Memphis community, she will be providing more opportunities for women to receive education and raise their awareness of breast cancer health. The mobile mammography unit will provide screening mammograms, and assist under-insured or uninsured women get the financial assistance needed through a variety of available grants.
“Early detection is still the best defense against breast cancer,” said Harris. “We will make ourselves available no matter where you are, no matter what your income — we want to make sure that you get the screening.”
The Baptist mobile mammography unit will operate during business hours, generally six days a week, seeing up to 25 women each day. Appointments are required, and can be made by calling (901) 226-0830.
Patients in need of follow-up care or a diagnostic mammogram will be referred to the Women’s Health Center, 50 Humphreys Boulevard in East Memphis, a part of Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women.
The Baptist mobile mammography unit is being scheduled for ZIP Codes 38106, 38109, 38111, 38115, 38116, 38118, 38127 and 38128. For more information about the mobile unit, or to find a public event near you, please call 901-226-0830.