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Sarasota Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019 1 month ago

Sarasota County Schools offers mobile mammography screenings

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More than 270 participated in the pilot program, which was at 18 district locations.
by: Brynn Mechem Staff Writer

October is often the month that local teams roll out the pink uniforms in support of friends and family who are fighting or who have died from complications of breast cancer.

Sarasota County Schools, however, is taking the fight off the gridiron and into the parking lot of every district building.

After a successful pilot program in the 2018-19 school year, the district is partnering with Tampa Bay Mobile Mammography to bring 3D screening to every female employee in the district.

Tampa Bay Mobile Mammography is a traveling bus that provides mammographies. During the pilot program, the bus traveled to 18 school district sites, but this year, it will be at all district-owned properties.

Sarasota County Schools risk management supervisor Lynn Peterson and wellness coordinator Erin Singerman worked to bring mobile mammography to all district employees. Brynn Mechem

Sarasota County Schools’ wellness coordinator, Erin Singerman, said this service was important to bring to staff because one in every eight women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime.

By bringing the 3D tests to the parking lots, Singerman said the school district is eliminating a lot of barriers that would keep women from getting tested.

“It allows teachers to not have to use as much of their own sick time, which is less time out of the classroom,” Singerman said. “It’s kind of a domino effect.”

The school began the program because breast cancer is one of the district’s high-cost drivers, Risk Management Supervisor Lynn Peterson said. Annually, about 76% of the district’s employees get their annual mammogram, which is higher than the Florida Blue benchmark of 65%.

“We gear a lot of our programs toward our high-cost drivers, so that we can help mitigate those claims,” Peterson said. “This program is really a win-win for everybody because if you can help someone detect something early, they can get it treated.”

During the pilot year, 276 women were tested. This year, Singerman and Peterson hope to more than double that number.

The program is free for all employees on the district’s health plan, and the results are sent directly to each person’s primary care doctor.

Additionally, Tampa Bay Mobile Mammography offered to pay for a substitute teacher to move between classrooms while teachers are screened. Of the 13 schools in the pilot program, three utilized the substitute, so more teachers could be screened.

“This program is just so convenient,” Peterson said. “We all get busy in our lives, and especially with teachers being in the classroom, it doesn’t always work for them to go during the week. So just to be able to get that done this way, it just adds that bit of convenience that will help encourage people to get it done.”

Women can apply for the 10- to 15-minute appointments by visiting TampBayMobileMammography.com. If their results are clear, they receive a letter in the mail. If it was an abnormal screening, their doctor will follow up to set up a diagnostics test.

Although Peterson and Singerman could not share the names of employees who have participated in the program, they did say that they have had a great response so far.

“I just had my mammogram done, and they were great,” read one email Singerman received. “It was my first one, and they made it quick and painless. I spoke with another teacher, and she said it was the best mammogram she’s ever had.”

The district does not currently offer a comparable program for men, but Singerman said other screenings covered by district insurance, such as an annual physical or dermatology screening, check for issues in sugar levels, blood pressure or skin.

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