By Karen L. Narum WHNP
The Tucson Medical Center Breast Health and Education Program is a grant funded program providing free screening mammograms, clinical breast exams, follow up as needed and education to the uninsured in Southern Arizona. The program was initiated in May of 1998. Funding for the program is a collaboration of grant funds and in kind services; some utilized for screening, some for follow up and some for education. The program has stayed active in community events, allowing relationships to develop with other community providers and ensuring up to date information on the ever changing resources.
Historically, a grant from a long time funder has provided the screening portion of the program. Unfortunately, this funder's most recent
effort did not result in a prosperous fund raising campaign. They had expected to announce grantees in the early part of April; however, in late May we were notified that there would be no funding available for the remainder of the year. We were able to continue seeing
patients while waiting for the announcement utilizing a gift we received from the TMC Foundation's Women's Health Gala in October 2012. Anticipating the potential for funding issues, a backup plan had been in the works.
During the last few years a wonderful relationship has developed with the local state funded Well Woman Health Check Program. If women who qualify have a diagnosis made under that program, they become eligible for state funded treatment. So before going to biopsy with our program, we attempt to get patients qualified with Well Woman. If patients qualify, the biopsy is performed utilizing the state funds, thus saving ours for those who do not qualify. In the last few years approximately half of the patients requiring biopsy have qualified. Since more of the biopsies were eligible for the state funds, we had an accumulation of left over follow up funds.
For several years, the TMC Auxiliary has provided funding to the program to be utilized for follow up as needed. Many of the members of the Auxiliary have embraced the program personally, volunteering their time and voice to help. We have made a point of keeping them up to date on the successes and failures. When the situation was explained to the Auxiliary, they were more than happy to allow us to roll over the funds and continue the program. We are pleased to share that, due to their generosity, there has been no interruption in patient services.
We are currently working with the hospital foundation to investigate funding opportunities for screening mammograms in 2014. These include a presentation of the program at some of the foundation's fund raising events and a grant submission to the Tohono O'odham Nation, who allocate a portion of casino profits to community causes. Too often there is a sense of competition between community providers. We approach other service providers with an attitude of how can we help each other, avoid duplication of services and utilize funding to its fullest. We feel blessed and are proud of the relationships we have developed. We have lived through a wonderful example of how collaboration and open communication can help us best serve our community!