Passionate advocate taps faith network to promote women's health

Published On 06/28/2012

Susan G. Komen grant at Methodist HealthcareFor someone who has already been retired for more than a year, Carole Dickens has tons of energy. It probably has something to do with the fact that she really loved working as a nurse and a health educator for more than 30 years—and she’s still getting the chance to put her skills to work.

“I am just wrapped in health,” Carole says.

“And I love teaching health.” 

The Players

Her passion is why she was tapped to manage a Methodist Healthcare initiative focused on women’s breast health. Methodist was awarded a $150,000 grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation last year to fund breast screening and diagnostic testing for underserved women in Memphis. Teresa Cutts, Ph.D., Director of Research for Innovation, Center of Excellence in Faith and Health, wrote the request for the Komen grant. She says that the project is critically important in a city like Memphis, where a recent study shows that African American women are twice as likely to die from breast cancer than white women. "We are expanding our efforts to include The West Clinic in screening and treatment efforts in the second phase of the grant," Dr. Cutts said. "Our goal is to decrease those numbers drastically." 

The two secret weapons are the Congregational Health Network (CHN) and Carole Dickens. The CHN is a collaborative partnership between Methodist’s hospitals and Mid-South congregations. Using this unique connection with more than 450 area congregations, Carole has been able to move quickly to get the program up and running and get the word out. 

Carole came on board three months into the grant’s first year and quickly established the target audience of the program and the criteria for participation. “The focus is on women who are uninsured, underinsured or have limited access to healthcare—which in Memphis is overwhelmingly minority women,” Carole says. 

“Black women don’t have breast cancer as often,” she says. “But the mortality rate is higher. We’re trying to close the gap.” 

The Strategy

CHN navigators recruit churches, and the CHN liaisons within those churches schedule a presentation and encourage members to attend. Carole then puts on her teaching hat and educates on better breast health and how women can take advantage of the program. 

Eligible participants are screened free of charge at a handful of partnering facilities, including Church Health Center, Christ Community Health Center, Memphis Health Center and the Memphis Muslim Clinic. If diagnostic testing is indicated, the women are then referred to partners for tests. 

The Results

Carole says about 250 women have been screened so far, and she’s working hard to get that number to 500. The Komen Foundation recently extended the grant by a year with an additional grant of $108,634, which will also cover treatment. 

It’s demanding work, but Carole is far from slowing down.  “It’s a loop. That’s what it’s all about,” she says. “It’s a lot of communication, every day. I don’t know how long it will last—but it feels good.” 

This is just one of the many moving stories of faith and health from our 2011 Annual Report.  To read more, click here.

Photo (l-r): Carole Dickens, Program Manager, Susan G. Komen Underserved Women Breast Health Grant, Adnan Naseer, MD, President, Board of Directors, Memphis Muslim Medical Clinic, Brenda Kyles, Regional Program Coordinator, Tennessee Breast and Cervical Screening Program, Shelby County Health Department