Congressional spouses highlight community work to break down screening barriers from coast to coast

By Lisa McGovern, congressional spouse, and executive director of the nonpartisan Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program

Pictured from left to right: Mike Smith, President of Northern Light Health Foundation; Diane Dickerson, CEO of Bangor Region YMCA; Catherine Schureman, Director of Breast Services for Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center; Mary Herman; Lisa McGovern; Isobel Golden; Emily Tolman, Director, Health Equity & Access for Northern Light Health

Through our community grants program, the Prevent Cancer Foundation annually identifies and funds extraordinary work across the U.S. to educate the public about lifesaving cancer screenings and make them more accessible and affordable.

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to visit Bangor, Maine, to learn more about the work of a 2021 community grantee, Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center (EMMC). I was joined by fellow congressional spouses and members of the Congressional Families Program*—Mary Herman, spouse of Sen. Angus King, and Isobel Golden, spouse of Rep. Jared Goldento call attention to the vital resources available to their Maine constituents that could increase cancer screening rates.

This event was held at the Bangor Region YMCA, a 26-year partner with EMMC through their Caring Connections program. We first heard from Bangor YMCA CEO Diane Dickerson, who shared a video of patient stories who directly benefited from the program. The Bangor Y helps with the educational, emotional and logistical barriers to cancer screenings—including transportation and childcare—and then links patients to EMMC for testing and medical services. This partnership with EMMC provides free mammograms for anyone who meets age and annual income guidelines through the Maine Breast and Cervical Health Program (MBCHP).

We then heard from Catherine “Cat” Schureman, BSN, RN Director of Breast Services at EMMC, who spoke passionately about innovative efforts to reduce barriers and expedite access to screenings. Primary care process improvements and new programs that allow patients to schedule their own appointments online has reduced the average wait time for mammograms from 110 days to four days, and the percentage of patients past due for mammograms has been reduced from 46 to 16%. Impressive!

The project targets EMMC primary care patients who identify as female between the ages of 50-75, many of whom have missed their mammogram appointments during the COVID-19 pandemic. A broader community education campaign, supported by EMMC and the YMCA, targets rural and LGBTQ+ populations in the area. They noted using inclusive language, such as saying “breast and chest” instead of breast screenings to reduce stigma, as a simple but important change.

As congressional spouses, we were so honored to meet the folks making progress in Maine through this partnership. The Prevent Cancer Foundation proudly funds impactful programs like this nationwide. Later this month, I will head to California to highlight important work the Foundation is funding on the other coast. Stay tuned!

*To learn more about Prevent Cancer’s Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program, visit our website.