by Bobby Hundley, UNC Health Foundation
Since it was established in 1994, the Rex Hospital Open has been a highlight of the Triangle sports calendar and a consistent source of financial support for the patients, programs and services at UNC Rex Healthcare. The annual event has raised more than $10 million over the last three decades, including nearly $400 thousand during the 2022 event that was held in May.
Proceeds from this year’s Rex Hospital Open will benefit UNC Rex’s mobile mammography units, which help underserved patients get much-needed screenings for breast cancer as part of the UNC Rex Mammography Assistance Program.
A History of Service
Established in 2007, the UNC Rex Mammography Assistance Program has been providing free screening mammograms to uninsured women for 15 years. These mammograms are offered on two mobile mammography units that travel to sites throughout the program’s service area, which includes 15 counties in central North Carolina. In 2019, the machines on both mobile units were upgraded to 3D mammography machines, providing access to state-of-the-art mammography for women in their own communities. The Mammography Assistance Program typically provides between 1,700 and 2,400 free screening mammograms on an annual basis.
In 2022, six of the counties served by the program – Caswell, Edgecombe, Nash, Sampson, Vance and Wilson – are designated as among the most economically distressed in the state by the North Carolina Department of Commerce.
Designed with Patients In Mind
The UNC Rex Mammography Assistance Program addresses two major barriers to breast health care. The program’s two mobile mammography units travel throughout its 15-county core service area to underserved communities with limited breast health resources. This reduces the need for uninsured women in outlying counties to travel long distances for a screening mammogram, which can be a barrier to care. Additionally, the program offers screening mammograms at no cost to uninsured women, mitigating a financial barrier to care.
Every mobile mammography site visit is conducted in partnership with a local medical provider that serves the target community. Partner organizations are located throughout the core service area and are a key component of the program’s success. Partner clinics and health departments identify women who are eligible for free screening mammograms and to facilitate their participation in the program.
Partner organizations educate women on breast health care and recruit them to participate in mobile mammography site visits. They assist women in completing the program application and verify that each participant has a physician on record who can receive the results of the screening. By working with local health departments as well as nonprofit clinics and health centers, the program is able to take advantage of its partners’ deep familiarity with the surrounding community. Partner organizations provide outreach and recruitment with culturally competent approaches. Additionally, partner organizations possess the expertise to guide women through appropriate follow-up.
The UNC Rex Mammography Assistance Program prioritizes maintaining the continuum of care for all patients who receive screening mammograms through the program. The program refers all patients in need of follow up imaging to Wake Radiology, a local radiology practice. Wake Radiology provides mammogram readings at no charge. Additionally, UNC Rex contracts with Wake Radiology to provide diagnostic imaging at no charge to Mammography Assistance Program participants referred for follow-up imaging.