Meyera E. Oberndorf

Mayor Supports Development of Mammography Resources

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, as documented by a 1995 community needs assessment. Looking for ways fill this gap, The Breast and Cervical Cancer Coalition of Virginia Beach developed a special program – Adopt-a-MOMM: Making Opportunities for Mammograms a Must – as a means for medically indigent women to get mammograms.

Mayor Meyera E. Oberndorf was one of the leading forces behind the creation of the city’s breast and cervical cancer initiative and has come to have a special relationship with this program – particularly Adopt-A-MOMM. 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.

Adopt-a-MOMM Supported by the Community

Through existing partnerships with local mammography providers, $75 has been established as the cost of mammograms .for women referred by Adopt-a-MOMM. Local businesses, organizations, civic groups, churches, and schools are recruited to adopt a medically indigent woman anonymously and make a donation to Adopt-a MOMM. These funds are then used to help the adopted woman obtain .a screening mammogram.

The coalition kicked off its first Adopt-a-MOMM campaign during October 1997 .as part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month activities. Nearly $6,000 was donated, and over 70 women received clinical breast examinations, individualized breast self-exam instruction, and mammograms. Fifty-nine of those women had negative screening mammograms; the remaining women required additional diagnostic tests, the results of which were also negative. In the October 1998 campaign, close to $3,000 was raised, and nearly 40 women received services – by then expanded to include Pap smears to screen for cervical cancer.

"Lights of Life"

"Lights of Life," the coalition’s signature event, is conducted each October to launch the month-long schedule of Breast Cancer Awareness activities and events in Virginia Beach. People are invited to gather and celebrate the lives of women and men who are surviving this disease and honor the memory of those who lost their battle. This year, over 60 people attended. Mayor Oberndorf participates in this event every year, reading her mayoral proclamation recognizing October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. A new strategy was .initiated at this year’s "Lights of Life" .ceremony to broaden resource development for Adopt-a-MOMM. Candles incorporating an inspirational message of hope were made available for purchase, and Mayor Oberndorf bought the first of twelve that were sold.

Follow-Up and Treatment

Through local partnerships, diagnosis and treatment are available to women whose mammogram results warrant follow-up. These women are referred to the Beach Health Clinic, the sole source of health care for medically indigent Virginia Beach residents. The clinic has a large network of local medical care providers to whom it refers women requiring follow-up evaluation. These services are either donated by the private provider or billed to the clinic .at a reduced cost.


Adopt-a-MOMM has enabled more than 100 Virginia Beach women to receive the early detection services they needed. Local resources for medically underserved women were increased with no use of public funds. With Mayor Oberndorf’s advocacy and involvement, the community will continue to promote breast cancer awareness and encourage early detection in Virginia Beach.

For more information, please contact:

Anna L. Pratt, R.N., M.S.N.
Virginia Beach Breast
and Cervical Cancer Coalition
(757) 518-2684


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