One of the missions of Catherine McAuley is closer to becoming a reality at St. Joseph’s Mercy Health Center. The Mercy Mobile Mammography Unit has been ordered and its arrival is anticipated for April 2012.
St. Joseph’s Mercy wrapped up National Breast Cancer Awareness Month on Monday with the announcement.
“The need is great and our community responded. I’m very pleased to announce that just six months ago I challenged a group of women from our community to raise funds for a much needed mobile mammography bus to provide digital mammography for hundreds of women who don’t have access to these services, out where they live and work,” St. Joseph’s Mercy President Tim Johnsen said. “I told them I’d love to be able to announce this in October of 2012. That group got back together and said they weren’t waiting that long. We’ll have this money raised before Breast Cancer Awareness month ends this year.”
The ordering of the bus the culmination of the work of the St. Joseph’s Mercy Health Foundation and a committee made up of Isabel Anthony, Bernard Cluck, Keeley DeSalvo, Elizabeth Farris, Lynda Jackson, Larry Levi and John Hearnsberger. They kicked off the fund-raising drive with an event in April at Oaklawn Jockey Club in Hot Springs with a pledge of $300,000 from the St. Joseph’s Mercy Volunteer Auxiliary. But they still needed to raise an additional $375,000 to make the bus a reality.
That is now a reality and was helped by a $25,000 donation from the Olds Foundation of Amity, which was represented by Millard and Theda Aud on Monday.
“We’ve had everything from small donations from our co-workers of $2 to $3 per pay period to gifts of over $25,000 to meet this goal,” Johnsen said. “I’m really excited to announce we ordered the bus two weeks ago. By April 2, we hope to have it out in the communities. We hope to have it on the road two to three days per week.”
Taking care of underserved populations was a goal of Catherine McAuley, who is the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, which ultimately founded St. Joseph’s Mercy in 1888.
“Catherine McAuley was focused on caring for women and children. With the advent of this new mobile mammography unit, we are carrying on her mission,” said Teresa Lambert, executive director of outpatient services at St. Joseph’s Mercy.
At present, the best defense against breast cancer is early detection. There are no fixed mammography services in Grant, Pike and Montgomery counties. Clark County (Arkadelphia) has the third highest incidence rate of breast cancer in Arkansas. Grant County (Sheridan) has one of the state’s lowest number of physicians (2.9 per 10,000). And Montgomery County (Mount Ida) has one of the highest percentage of female residents 40 years and older (53.1 percent).
This lack of access puts these women at a higher risk of late-stage breast cancer and death.
Developed to make mammogram screenings more accessible, the 40-feet-long Mercy Mobile Mammography Unit will travel to rural locations to assist medically underserved women in south central Arkansas. It will become one of only five mobile units in the state, and the only unit to serve Garland, Saline, Clark, Montgomery and Pike Counties. The bus not only offers convenience, but also offers women all the privacy they would expect if they were able to travel to a doctor’s office.
It will also feature the latest technology, including digital mammography. And it will be compatible with St. Joseph’s Mercy’s electronic health record and its patient portal, MyMercy.
The 10-wheeled bus features intake and consult areas as well as an imaging suite. It also has a wheelchair lift to ensure accessibility.
“We are very honored to be able to bring mobile mammography services back. It is a much needed service in our area that we, as a part of Mercy, are dedicated to providing,” Lambert said. “The five-county region we serve has some of the highest rates of breast cancer and this unit will allow us to provide mammograms to women in parts of our region that do not have mammography readily available.”
Breast cancer is second only to lung cancer in deaths among women in the United States. Only 53 percent of women 40 and older reported having a mammogram in the past year. In Arkansas, the American Cancer Society has estimated that 1,820 female Arkansans will be newly diagnosed and 410 will die of the disease this year.
Between 80 and 90 percent of all breast cancers in women without symptoms will be found with mammography. When it is still contained in the breast at Stage 1, there is a 98 percent survival rate.
St. Joseph’s Mercy is a not-for-profit, faith-based health facility with 27 medical clinics serving the healthcare needs of Hot Springs and its surrounding communities since 1888 as the region’s most preferred provider of health care services including cardiac, cancer and women’s.