Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, Susan G. Komen join forces for underserved women

The Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine at FIU is partnering with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure®komen_ribbon Miami/Ft. Lauderdale to promote breast health and early diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer in underserved populations of North Miami Dade.

“This relationship will help us deliver on our mission to address community needs in North Miami,” said Dr. Carolyn Runowicz, HWCOM executive associate dean for academic affairs and a leading expert in cancers that affect women. “The alarming rate of presentation in advanced stage breast cancer will be impacted by this partnership.”

Figures from the Florida Cancer Data System have shown that women in north Miami-Dade County are affected by very high rates of late state breast cancer; resulting in an alarming statistic: a 52 percent breast cancer-related mortality rate, in comparison to the state of Florida and the national rate of 40 percent.

“This high incidence can be attributed to lack of access to service for screening and follow up in our medically underserved communities,” said project director Iveris Martinez, assistant professor and chief of the division of medicine and society, department of humanities, health, and society. “Educating our future physicians in the barriers local women face to access will be key to addressing disparities in the long term.”

The HWCOM’s Miami Breast Health Initiative is already working with The Beautiful Gate Cancer Support and Research Center in Miami Gardens to train medical students on cancer risk, disparities, barriers to care, and strategies for educating vulnerable women about the importance of early detection and early mammography and follow-up for uninsured women.

The Mammography Art Initiative project, an art exhibition and auction led by HWCOM students, raised $9,600 in September. The money is being used to pay for mammograms and, when needed, follow up evaluation and treatment, for 75 women in collaboration with the Jackson Health System. Funds from a Susan G. Komen grant will help these women meet their copays for any follow up care and pay for transportation to the health care facilities.

This project will expand the efforts of the medical school’s signature program, the Green Family Foundation NeighborhoodHELP™, which provides health assessments, education, counseling, legal services, and social service referrals for North Dade households to which students are assigned as part of their curriculum.

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