Mayor Meyera E. Oberndorf

Mayor Takes Lead in Getting Mammograms for Indigent Women

Since 1994, the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health has conducted a Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program to create awareness about the triad of prevention:

  • breast self-examinations;
  • clinical breast exams; and
  • the importance of obtaining screening mammograms.

The message is clear: early detection is the best protection against breast cancer. Virginia Beach. s program has taught thousands of women proper breast self-examination. However, the health department discovered early on that many women are unable to afford clinical exams and screening mammograms.

Mayor Meyera E. Oberndorf was the leading force behind the creation of the city. s breast and cervical cancer initiative and has come to have a special relationship with this program. In 1996, she was diagnosed with breast cancer during her campaign for a third term in office. She told her constituents about her condition and her determination to overcome the disease. They gave her another term by an overwhelming margin of the vote. She has gone on tirelessly to promote breast cancer awareness at both the local and national levels, particularly for the underserved.


To assist the low-income segment of the population, a special group was formed - - the Virginia Beach Breast and Cervical Cancer Coalition. In October of 1997, the coalition conducted its first initiative for "Adopt-A-M.O.M.M. - - Making Opportunities for Mammograms a Must." A fund-raising campaign collected more than $5,600 through donations from community organizations, schools, businesses, and individuals. Any group may "adopt" a woman by raising funds to cover the cost of a mammogram.

The coalition chose "Adopt-A-M.O.M.M." as its annual signature program for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. The intent was to increase donations so that more women could be served.

Collaboration Results in Grants

In addition to funds from "Adopt-A-M.O.M.M.," the American Cancer Society awarded two grants to the Virginia Beach Health Department that enabled more than 300 eligible women to receive early detection services. In May of 1998 the health department, the Beach Health Clinic, which is the city. s medical resource for uninsured residents, and two local health care systems collaborated on a proposal to the Virginia State Health Department. This cooperation resulted in the four agencies being awarded Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funds, as administered by the state health department, to start the "Every Woman. s Life" program. This grant will provide 150 screening mammograms by December of 1998, with additional funds to be requested for 1999.


Adopt-A-M.O.M.M. funds enabled 74 indigent Virginia Beach women to receive clinical breast examinations and screening mammograms to find and fight breast cancer early. Two women needed and received additional diagnostic services. Under the "Every Woman. s Life" program two women have so far received follow-up diagnostic services based on screening results.

Collaborative efforts in the community have raised awareness about breast cancer, taught women how to perform breast self-examinations properly and are now providing the financial support needed to complete the triad of prevention. The Virginia Beach Breast and Cervical Cancer Coalition is helping the city reach one of its high priority goals - - strong and healthy families.

Contact: Helen Spore, Legislative Assistant, Mayor. s Office, 757/427-4525.

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