To increase access to breast health services and improve early cancer detection, Sutter Health and the Carol Ann Read Breast Health Center at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland are launching a new mobile mammography van. Equipped with a digital mammography unit, a comfortable waiting area and private changing and exam rooms, the 40-foot van will offer screenings to women across the East Bay. This includes the communities served by Eden Medical Center and eventually Sutter Delta Medical Center.
Formally unveiled in early October, the mobile mammography vehicle will travel to a variety of East Bay locations, broadening access to critical services while providing the same high-quality care received by patients at Sutter Health clinics. Once the COVID-19 threat lessens, stops will include senior centers, churches, healthcare facilities, health fairs and workplaces.
“Finding breast cancer at its earliest possible stage is critical to survival, and early detection through regular mammograms remains the best defense against the disease,” says oncologic surgeon Eileen Consorti, M.D., medical director of the Carol Ann Read Breast Health Program.
“As a breast cancer survivor, this cause is very personal to me. The mobile mammography van will provide screenings to hundreds of women each year, many of whom are uninsured or underinsured.”
Also, the shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic has created a screening backlog, Dr. Consorti adds. With the van, many women who are past due for breast cancer screenings can now take advantage of this convenient service.
Healing Through Generosity
The Carol Ann Read Breast Health Center, along with the ensuing breast health program, launched to spread best practices started at ABSMC across the East Bay, were created thanks in large part to lead donor Peter Read. Twenty-three years ago, he lost his beloved first wife, Carol Ann, to breast cancer.
A few years after she passed away, Carol Ann’s doctor, Robert Albo, M.D., contacted Peter with an idea to help him through his grieving process: philanthropy, Dr. Albo said, can often help heal. Peter agreed, and through his generosity and guidance, the Carol Ann Read Breast Health Program developed and flourished.
Throughout the years, Peter, co-founder of Grocery Outlet, has worked collaboratively with ABSMC administrators and physicians to raise funds to update breast screening equipment in the East Bay and provide for the needs of women who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer. He has funded educational events to raise breast cancer awareness within the Latino and African American neighborhoods.
Peter’s generosity has been critical to CARBHP, but he says the cancer navigators, clinical staff and physicians deserve the most credit. He calls Dr. Consorti, Linda Gordon, M.D., and Julie Petrini, president and CEO of Sutter Bay Hospitals, among others, his heroes. “I’m inspired by the doctors and staff who are deeply devoted to helping others,” he says.
Breast Care on Wheels
Inspiration for the mobile mammography van came three years ago when Peter was talking with CARBHC leaders about additional ways to reach uninsured and underinsured women in the area. Drawing on his retail background and knowledge of these communities, he saw an opportunity with to serve these women at retail locations.
So, prior to the van’s official launch, Peter offered up Grocery Outlet parking lots to pilot its screening services in convenient settings. The success of those test events, plus additional gifts from the community and a Sutter match grant, have helped ABSMC further its mission to provide more women with low-or no-cost mammograms.
“Alta Bates Summit Medical Center is very excited about our new mobile mammography program,” says David Clark, CEO of ABSMC. “Access to affordable and convenient breast cancer screenings can be lifesaving. Our mobile mammography unit will help our team bring advanced technology to patients in our area that most need it.”
Looking at the completed van now, Peter tears up and beams with pride. “It really is inspirational and rewarding to see this at the end of a long journey to help as many women across the East Bay as we can,” he says.
Although the pain of losing Carol Ann will never go away, Peter is comforted by the impact his philanthropy has made. “This investment in Alta Bates Summit gives me great personal satisfaction,” he says. “I am excited about reaching even more women with the mobile mammography.”