Partnering Programs Provide Even Better Care


Partnering Programs Provide Even Better Care | breast cancer, American Cancer Society, Kingsport Hematology Oncology, Susan G. Komen for the Cure

A nurse at the Comprehensive Breast Center of Holston Valley Medical Center prepares a patient for a mammogram.

Wellmont – Komen for the Cure® – American Cancer Society®

During National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, October provides an opportunity to educate others about this disease and available resources. From pink ribbons to t-shirts and balloons, visuals serve as notices emphasizing the importance of early detection.

Many medical strides have been made, and advancements are continuing to, hopefully, eradicate breast cancer one day. With two nationally accredited centers, Northeast Tennessee residents have access to the very best in overall breast healthcare in the region.

Both Wellmont Comprehensive Breast Centers in Kingsport and Bristol received accreditation by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC) in 2010. This represents the hallmark in delivering overall breast healthcare. Wellmont is also in planning stages to obtain this accreditation at the Southwest Virginia Cancer Center in Norton.

“Wellmont is very committed to caring for breast cancer patients,” said Sue Prill, MD, medical director of Bristol Regional Medical Center’s Comprehensive Center. “There are only six certified centers in the state [of Tennessee] and two of them are Bristol and Holston Valley.”

Wellmont is very actively involved with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® organization, which was founded in 1982. Specifically, Wellmont’s involvement is with the local Tri-Cities Komen affiliation.

Established in 2005, the Tri-Cities Komen Affiliate is a nonprofit 501(c) 3 organization that serves Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and Western North Carolina, to educate, screen, and provide treatment to the region’s underserved women.

Komen provides many educational tools that can assist all women. Dealing with breast cancer can be daunting for patients and their families, and women need resources and support.

“The way Komen works is that you have to be granted an affiliation,” explained Prill. “You have to apply to Komen to be an affiliate, and the thing that we really like about being part of that is the monies we raise really are used locally.”

From fundraising events throughout the year, to the annual 5K Tri-Cities Komen Race for the Cure®, which will take place on October 23, 2011, beginning at Memorial Park in  Kingsport, money is raised to fund grants for area hospitals, health organizations, and nonprofit community organizations that help educate, screen, and treat underserved women. Many of these women are between 40 and 50 years of age.

“There is a governmental program in place, which is the Breast Cancer and Cervical Education Program, and that covers mammograms in low-income women, but only after age 50,” said Prill. 

According to Prill, the Wellmont Foundation has received grant funding for their A-B-C program, which is Access to Breast Care, and this program enables low-income women to receive necessary treatment.

Recommendations now suggest that screenings begin at age 40, so grants can provide much needed assistance in addressing this gap. There are also grant funds available for follow-up care and treatment for patients with abnormal mammograms, and there is even funding for prevention clinics.

“Komen really works very diligently to keep [grant funding] as a local process, so what the affiliate raises basically goes to local care,” said Prill. “With Komen, we know exactly how much money we have and how much money we can give out.”

Prill has served on the local grant committee for dispersing Komen funds. In addition to the therapeutic and diagnostic aspect of the disease, awareness actually begins with education and early detection of breast cancer.

For this reason, educational efforts that reach underserved women in the region are also funded through local Komen funds in the form of grants.

 “Komen really does work to keep that money local,” said Prill. “The people we know are the ones that benefit, and that’s the key.”

Sue Lindenbusch serves as vice president of oncology for Wellmont Health System, and one of her goals for the region has been to better utilize the resources provided through the American Cancer Society® (ACS) and other organizations in the community.

“The American Cancer Society is one of the primary resources in terms of education and information for patients and families of loved ones diagnosed with cancer,” said Lindenbusch.  “The American Cancer Society and the treatment providers compliment each other…, and that collaboration is really important to us.”

On October 3, 2011, Wellmont will officially open Kingsport Hematology Oncology Associates in a new facility in west Kingsport, which will house ACS representatives on-site.

“I am always very much an advocate of making services as easy as possible for the patients to access because patients don’t need one more barrier to get the information and resources they need,” said Lindenbusch.

According to Lindenbusch, having ACS on-site at the new location will offer easy access to available resource and educational materials, decreasing barriers for referrals and to products, such as wigs and turbans for cancer patients.

“I think it’s just a marrying up of two real experts in the oncology field with Wellmont and ACS bringing our services together to benefit our patients and families that we serve.”

The relocation of Kingsport Hematology Oncology also represents an economic development partnership with the City of Kingsport and Wellmont in an effort to revitalize the former BAE office site. 

From an aesthetically pleasing atmosphere with easy access to a wealth of valuable resources, which also include a research nurse and genetic counselor, the new Wellmont facility will offer a more efficient and healing environment.

“When a patient is diagnosed with cancer, it can be very overwhelming,” explained Lindenbusch. “They need a lot of information and support, and patients and family members will have more resources at their disposal.”