At the corner of health and hope

Published 9:00 pm Saturday, October 20, 2012

By Dr. Patsy R. Joyner

Celebrating its five-year anniversary, the Western Tidewater Free Clinic is making a positive impact on the lives of many people across the service area, as illustrated by the “Sandra’s” story, which is especially fitting during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

According to Ginger Vincent, WTFC’s women’s health case manager, Sandra found herself without a job and health insurance at the age of 53. Like many women, her health took a backseat to such basic needs as food, shelter, and clothing. She had no mammograms for several years and frankly admitted to not taking them seriously.

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At the urging of a close friend, Sandra contacted Sentara Obici Hospital regarding a free screening mammogram program available through a grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation to the hospital. She secured the last available slot through this program, and the results of her screening mammogram were not what she expected; she would need additional diagnostic testing.

The breast cancer navigator at Obici contacted WTFC and referred Sandra for a diagnostic work-up. After completing the eligibility process, she was immediately evaluated, scheduled for diagnostic procedures and enrolled in the Every Woman’s Life program, offered at the Clinic through the Virginia Department of Health.

For Sandra and others like her, this program is a bridge to Medicaid for uninsured women to receive insurance coverage to pay for needed treatments for their breast or cervical cancer and improved access to care.

Unfortunately, Sandra was diagnosed with breast cancer, requiring surgery and radiation treatment. Working with local facilities and physicians, she received the needed treatment in a timely manner and is doing well.

Local physicians continue to monitor her closely for complications and possible reoccurrence of her breast cancer. She is no longer a WTFC patient, as she now has Medicaid coverage for her treatment.

Sandra reports that during the entire process, she felt she received the best medical care available, and she was treated with such respect that it left a lasting impression. And though she does not have a lot of money, she wants to show her gratitude for what was done for her. She has requested information on becoming a volunteer to help the WTFC and the Komen Foundation.

Ginger Vincent said, “WTFC is so grateful to the Susan G. Komen/Tidewater Affiliate; the EWL program; local facilities and physicians; volunteers; and funders who assist us in delivering high-

quality care to the communities in need. This clinic would not exist without all of them. The impact of their support is immeasurable.”

“Seventy-five percent of the funds raised by the Komen/Tidewater Affiliate stay in our community for local programs,” said Miriam Beiler, WTFC Executive Director.

Thanks to a grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation, breast health services in the clinic’s Women’s Health Program have been expanded. Annually, since April 2010, more than 400 women have received mammograms and follow-up treatment.

The comprehensive women’s health program at WTFC provides mammograms and various other preventative and diagnostic services, with a primary focus on education to many women who cannot afford them. One diagnostic test can make a difference in the quality and length of life by detecting breast cancer at an early stage.

Dr. Patsy R. Joyner is a board member at the Western Tidewater Free Clinic. She is also a breast cancer survivor and facilitator for the Southampton Memorial Hospital Breast Cancer Support Group, “Suzette’s Sisters,” named in memory of Suzette Greger who established the group.

For more information—and details on other services available at the Western Tidewater Free Clinic, call or email Pamela Witt, RN/BSN, Director of Clinical Services, at 757-923-1060, ext. 7017 or