The East Texas Medical Center Tyler has been selected to receive
the Texas Hospital Association's 2012 Excellence in Community
Service Award in recognition of its highly successful East Texas
Pin-A-Sister breast cancer awareness campaign. The award will be
presented Feb. 13 at the THA 2013 Annual Conference and Expo in
"ETMC Tyler has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to
improve the health of every member of its community, and this
program ensures engagement in a unique and interesting way," said
Dan Stultz, M.D., FACP, FACHE, THA president/chief executive
Regina Davis, director of ETMC's Breast Care Center, became
interested in developing a program like Pin-A-Sister after the
local chapter of Susan G. Komen for the Cure released results of a
study conducted in Smith County. The data revealed that
African-American women in the community had significantly higher
rates of breast cancer than other women. Worse, these women also
tended to present with later-stage breast disease and had a much
higher mortality rate.
"We are honored to receive this award, and we are excited to
share the enthusiasm and results East Texas Pin-A-Sister has
generated within our community," said Elmer G. Ellis, FACHE, ETMC
Tyler president/chief executive officer.
Part of the problem was the messaging. Traditional
advertisements promoting mammograms rarely included a multicultural
perspective; even when they did, they still weren't enough to get
women to go to the area's three breast care centers.
"The church is the main cog of the African-American community,
and that's where we needed to go to launch a grassroots effort,"
said Davis. "Black women simply weren't going to come to our breast
In 2010, ETMC Tyler launched its Pin-A-Sister program in Tyler.
Modeled after a program in Chicago, the campaign uses a strategy
that has long been successful in the African-American community:
Get the church involved. Breast cancer survivors provide personal
testimonies at their home churches through East Texas Pin-A-Sister.
In addition, churches host Pin-A-Sister ceremonies in which
participating women pin each other with pink ribbons and pledge to
take better care of themselves by getting annual screening
mammograms. To date, 6,500 African-American women in Smith
County have been pinned.
Local pastors were happy to make time in their worship services
for breast cancer survivors to share their stories with their
congregations. Most of their members view social
responsibility and racial uplift as part of their religious
duty. The practice also effectively reached out to women who
were unaware of the causes of breast cancer or the importance of
early detection; apprehensive about getting a mammogram; or unaware
of the existence of financial and emotional support. Those
churches now provide materials for their congregants and help women
take the pledge to get their first mammograms.
"Our role is to pull the information together and let these
women know there are survivors," said the Rev. Gregory Williams,
pastor at Starrville Church of the Living God. "We are
breaking down the stigma. We once thought the detection of
breast cancer was a death sentence. That story is being
The success of East Texas Pin-A-Sister over the past three years
has been remarkable. In its first year, the program far
surpassed its goal of "pinning" 600 women, with about 2,000 women
participating in pinning ceremonies. Of the 80
African-American churches in Smith County, 95 percent have
conducted pinning ceremonies since the program's inception.
Despite its success thus far, the program faces
challenges. Although its staff collects participant
information and has developed a database, outcome data can be
difficult to quantify. Not all women participating in pinning
ceremonies go to ETMC for their mammograms, and there is no central
county registry for receipt of screening mammograms. Davis
plans to build in data indicators, and bring on clerical support to
follow through with patients and track their results.
Funding will continue to be a focus for Davis and her
Pin-A-Sister colleagues. Initially, the ETMC Cancer Institute
and the ETMC Foundation worked together to provide funding for the
program. The Tyler chapter of Susan G. Komen for the Cure
provided grants totaling $37,600 from 2010 through 2012. ETMC
provided substantial additional funding by allocating staff and
establishing a budget for additional materials and outreach.
The total budget for the three years of Pin-A-Sister was
approximately $75,000, and future funding is anticipated from
similar grantors and partnerships.
"Our ETMC family will continue to honor and support the women and men of Texas
who have devoted much energy, heart and time to this meaningful
breast cancer project that is changing and saving lives," said
Ellis. "Each of us has a friend or family member who has been
touched by cancer; for too many of them, the diagnosis came too
late. With programs like East Texas Pin-A-Sister, many of
those future tragedies can be avoided."