By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
The ultimate goal of the $8 million Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center planned by Humility of Mary Health Partners is to reduce the breast-cancer rate in Mahoning County, which is the highest in the state.
HMHP kicked off the public portion of its financial campaign for the breast-care cancer center Wednesday at the DeYor Performing Arts Center downtown by reporting that about $6.1 million of the $8 million needed is pledged.
Officials said, however, that most of the remaining $2 million needs to be raised before the project can get under way at St. Elizabeth Health Center on Belmont Avenue.
The long-range plan is to begin the renovation work this fall and open the center, which at this point is slated to be in the former outpatient service area, in 2011-12, officials said.
The comprehensive breast-care center is the longtime dream of Dr. Rashid Abdu, whose wife, Joanie, died of breast cancer June 2, 1994.
“Because our poor and underserved, who lack resources or knowledge, seek help late, they die early,” Dr. Abdu said.
Because of HMHP’s mission to care for the poor, these women will get that same high level of care expected by their well-to-do sisters, he said.
Most importantly, because of the interdisciplinary team approach required by a comprehensive breast-care center, the weeks or months of waiting for appointments, diagnosis and treatment are condensed into days.
Treatment is tailored for each individual and center personnel to meet weekly to discuss the status of each patient, Dr. Abdu said.
He said Mahoning County’s breast-cancer death rate is the highest in Ohio, and Trumbull and Columbiana counties are not far behind.
“The center is HMHP’s response to the needs of the Valley, said Robert Shroder, president and chief executive officer of HMHP.
The Joanie Abdu Center will be the only accredited comprehensive breast-care center between Cleveland and Hershey, Pa., and only the third in Ohio. Women no longer will need to leave town for the “best treatment” because it will be right here, Shroder said.
To be accredited, a center must have 17 components and meet 27 standards of care, Dr. Abdu said.
Joseph D. and Andrea Lane of Canfield co-chair the capital campaign.
Jim Schultis, president of the HMHP Development Foundation, which was gifted with $250,000 Wednesday for the breast-care center by the Hynes-Finnegan Foundation, said early gifts to the campaign total $6,150,000. That total includes $3 million of HMHP internal funding.
The project’s budget is $4 million for renovation, construction and relocation of current equipment, and $4 million for additional medical equipment.
The center will require the assembling of a world-class team of doctors, radiologists, oncologists, technologists, nurses and administrators in Youngstown, Shroder said.
And the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center fulfills the vision of Dr. Abdu that something good would come of his wife’s death.