A mobile mammography center is hoping to “drive out” breast cancer in South Florida by offering free screenings to uninsured women in Miami-Dade County.
The Linda Fenner 3D Mobile Mammography Center, lovingly known as the “mammovan,” is a product of Florida International University’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. The mobile center works with homeless shelters, advocacy groups and places of worship to provide free mammography screenings to women in underserved communities, said Lorraine Nowakowski, the clinical director of operations at the college.
On Saturday, Feb. 27th, the mobile center will offer screenings at the Islamic Center of Greater Miami, located at 4305 NW 183rd Street in Miami Gardens, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Screenings are available to women who are at least 40 years of age and who don't have health insurance. (For information about how to schedule an appointment, click here, or scroll to the end of this article.)
It’s the first time the “mammovan” has partnered with a local mosque, said Seema Azim, a first year medical student at FIU who initiated the partnership with Imam Dr. Abdul Hamid Samra.
Azim said forging a partnership with a local mosque was important to her because she wanted to connect her community to the resources they needed to take care of their health, especially breast health.
“I went into medicine knowing that many Muslims are underserved and uninsured,” Azim said, adding that there are many Muslim women without health insurance in Miami-Dade County. “As a Muslim, you have to give back to your community.”
Nowakowski said providing health services to people in underserved neighborhoods and communities is part of what makes FIU’s program unique. She said they are constantly looking for partners so they can serve as many of these communities as possible.
“Our curriculum is based on comorbidities in addition to social determinants of health, or barriers to health,” she said.
Barriers to health, she explained, can be anything from not having a car, to not having insurance, to living in a food desert.
"In medicine, people fall through the cracks all the time," she said. "We really wanted to focus on the underserved."
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer for women in the United States, behind lung cancer. However, during COVID-19, breast cancer screenings were considered an elective procedure, leading some doctors to see many appointments pushed back or cancelled.
For Nowakowski, getting screened if you're 40 years old or older is very important.
“Cancer doesn’t know that COVID is happening," she said.
Heightened safety and sanitation protocols are in place at the Linda Fenner 3D Mobile Mammography Center amid COVID-10, Nowakowski said. Screenings are completely free to uninsured women in Miami-Dade County who are at least 40 years old.
Women interested in receiving a free mammogram must make an appointment. Appointments can be made by calling 305-348-7465 or by e-mailing LFMMC@fiu.edu. A list of upcoming locations can be found here.
The center is made possible through donations from the Braman Family Charitable Foundation and the Batchelor Foundation. For more information, click here.