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Love Expressed | Love Understood: Overcoming the Healthcare Disparities of our Hispanic Neighbors

Imagine being in a new country, far from your friends and family, devoid of a stable income or health benefits, unable to converse fluently in the native language… and then finding a lump in your breast. Where would you go? What would you do? Who could you turn to?

This is the sad reality often confronted by numerous Gift of Life clients. Many of our Hispanic neighbors who have limited resources simply don’t know where to turn when faced with a health crisis.

This issue can be found throughout the United States and particularly in the state of Texas, which has the second largest Hispanic population in the United States (surpassed only by California), with 39% of its residents being of Hispanic descent. It is estimated that 31% of that population lacks health insurance.

Studies indicate that breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of cancer death among Hispanic women in the United States. Breast cancer among Hispanic women in the United States is less likely to be diagnosed at a local, more treatable stage, and Hispanic women are less likely to receive appropriate and timely treatment in comparison to non-Hispanic white women.

The Gift of Life would like to improve upon those statistics. Between 2015 and 2016, the Gift of Life screened more than 1,200 Hispanic clients. This year, alone, more than 320 Hispanic clients have been provided free lifesaving Gift of Life screenings, with an average of 12 – 15 Hispanic women per site.

The Gift of Life strives to provide all Southeast Texans with compassionate care and lifesaving cancer screenings, regardless of ethnic, cultural or language barriers.

This holistic and comprehensive process begins with communication. Through the support of knowledgeable translators and interpreters, like Bernice Loza and Martha Suarez, the Gift of Life provides marketing, educational materials, applications and documents in Spanish, with bilingual staff readily available to answer questions and offer support.

Many non-English speaking Hispanic patients put off medical appointments until they can find a friend or family member who can accompany them and interpret. This barrier to care is alleviated at all Gift of Life screening sites where bilingual staff and volunteers are present to guide our clients through the screening process seamlessly and in their native language. At each site, Martha Suarez stands at the ready to translate every aspect of a client’s care and interpret for medical staff, ensuring that each woman is fully informed. Hispanic clients are provided the same breast health education as all other clients and are equally encouraged to seek early detection of cancer. To make it easy for all clients to have equal access to our free services, bilingual case workers help our clients overcome socioeconomic challenges, like lack of childcare and transportation, at every screening site, as needed.

Gift of Life Community Health Worker Bernice Loza is a remarkable resource for the complex challenges that can affect Hispanic women. She provides expert client navigation, offering additional support services that commonly affect our clients, along with access to organizations that can help them understand immigration laws and surmount unemployment, poverty and lack of healthcare.

Bernice is also a bilingual patient advocate who works with clients who have received a positive breast cancer diagnosis. Being diagnosed with breast cancer can be scary – for anyone! – but would be even more distressing if the information was shared in an unfamiliar language. The role Bernice plays in helping Spanish-speaking breast cancer clients understand their diagnosis, develop a treatment plan and communicate with hospitals and doctors is priceless. Love, care and concern is expressed and, most importantly, understood with her invaluable support.

Thanks, in part, to the Avon Breast Health Outreach Program Grant, the Gift of Life can retain knowledgeable and compassionate bilingual staff members who can assist our diverse clientele. Our skilled staff are empowered to reach out to local women in need and ensure that the limitations of language, culture or income do not prevent them from receiving the lifesaving screenings and support they need to live a healthy, happy life.

Meet our Program Services Team

Each year, the Gift of Life provides nearly 2,500 clinical breast exams and mammograms to Southeast Texas women who would otherwise go without these essential, lifesaving screenings.

Helping each client bridge their individual and unique barriers to medical care is an enormous task that requires the skills, experience and compassion of knowledgeable case workers and staff who ensure that each woman receives superior care in her journey to health and healing.

Thanks, in part, to the funding provided by the Avon Breast Health Outreach Program Grant, the Gift of Life can maintain a full staff of individuals who excel in their field of care. At each step of their path, Gift of Life clients are loved, cared for and assisted by extraordinary Gift of Life Program Services staff who go above and beyond the call of duty.

Please enjoy a glimpse into our staff and the important role they play in our clients’ lives:

 Kristen Foster, CHW: Kristen Foster is a full-time employee who is the first line of reception for many Gift of Life clients. She answers client calls and assists in providing them with the help they need as they seek and receive care. Impediments, like lack of childcare or transportation, that might otherwise prevent a woman from receiving a free screening are overcome with Kristen’s help. If a client is struggling to pay their electricity bill or is without adequate groceries to feed their family, she can route them through community services that can immediately offer relief. Additionally, Kristen manages client paperwork, helps complete client applications and schedules client screenings.

Molly Lee, CHW: At every mobile mammography van site or hospital screening site, Molly Lee, a full-time employee, is present to navigate women through care. The day before the screening, she arrives to set up and preemptively resolve any problems that might affect the success of the screening. During the site, she manages client paperwork, coordinates volunteers and addresses client concerns as they arise. Molly ensures each client receives a clinical breast exam and helps provide the Gift of Life’s educational materials about performing self-breast exams, understanding your body and making healthy lifestyle choices. She’s even been known to babysit children as their guardian is being screened! To make certain that clients don’t miss their appointment, Molly mails reminder letters one week prior to their screening, followed by reminder calls and texts. She reschedules clients that cancel and reiterates the importance of self-care at every step of the way.

Bernice Loza, CHW: Bernice Loza is a part-time, bilingual employee who bridges language barriers as the Gift of Life provides care for its Spanish-speaking clients. Bernice schedules follow-up appointments and diagnostic mammograms for those who present abnormal results. If a woman is diagnosed with cancer through our screenings, Bernice personally meets with them, comforts and supports them and provides them with a Gift of Life Survivor Bag, filled with heartfelt items that will help them through their cancer journey. Many Gift of Life breast cancer patients struggle with financial limitations. As a highly skilled and knowledgeable Community Heath Worker, Bernice can connect those clients with the additional support services they need.

Christina Morris, BSN, RN: As Gift of Life Program Manager, Christina is a full-time employee who oversees and coordinates every aspect of the Gift of Life’s mission. Her goal is to provide each client with a compassionate, holistic experience. Christina brings her extensive medical expertise to the team and often works as a patient advocate for clients who experience a multitude of health problems or require assistance communicating with their physicians and providers. In addition to her extensive role, Christina plans and coordinates the Gift of Life Pink Power Network Breast Cancer Support Group. By staying informed on the most pertinent topics affecting breast cancer patients and survivors, she can offer customized meetings that uplift and empower our Pink Power Ladies during their journey to healing and health.

Charlotte Simoneaux: A part-time employee, Charlotte Simoneaux has a long and rich history with the Gift of Life. She is familiar with every aspect of the organization and is keenly acquainted with other community services that can benefit our clients. Charlotte serves as a tireless advocate who can manage special concerns and circumstances that might affect our women. In addition to this important role, Charlotte schedules and coordinates mobile mammography van sites and manages important reporting documents. Charlotte, a true to friend to those in need, is often a client chauffeur, who shuttles women who lack transportation to and from screening sites.

Martha Suarez: As a bilingual, part-time employee, Martha plays an important role in the seamless navigation and care of the Gift of Life’s Hispanic clientele. In addition to translating documents, forms and educational materials, Martha also helps schedule clients, complete their applications and resolves issues of childcare and transportation. By communicating with Hispanic women in their native language, Martha helps each client understands how to care for herself, make healthy lifestyle choices and benefit from the lifesaving services available through the Gift of Life.

Gift of Life clients enjoy remarkable care, compassion and concern with our exceptional Program Services team. The Gift of Life is so fortunate to have the support of Avon Breast Health Outreach Program to enable it to continue providing skilled and committed caregivers for our beloved clients.

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Julie Rogers "Gift of Life" Program

409.833.3663
877.720.4438 (toll-free)
info@giftoflifebmt.org

2390 Dowlen Road
Beaumont, Texas 77706
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Copyright 2017 Julie Rogers "Gift of Life" Program