A Project of Prevention

Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden faculty are partnering with a South Jersey agency to increase early diagnosis of breast cancer for those with severe mental illnesses

Nursing professors Bonnie Jerome-D’Emilia, left, and Sheila Linz. Photo by Mary Anderson.

People suffering from serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder struggle to access health care and often die young. This problem is particularly acute for women with serious mental illnesses who often are diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer. Despite this, only one organization in New Jersey—Jewish Family Services of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, which is based in Margate—has a program specifically focusing on mammogram screening for this population.

Rutgers–Camden faculty members Sheila Linz, an assistant professor of nursing, and Bonnie Jerome-D’Emilia, an associate professor of nursing, are working with the agency and community members to evaluate their program and look for ways to improve and expand it. “We are trying to make a change in the health care system that will accommodate this population of women,” Jerome-D’Emilia said.

The project is one of 14 funded by a grant from the Community Design for Health and Wellness Interdisciplinary Research Group, a universitywide effort co-directed by Sarah Allred, faculty director of the Senator Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs at Rutgers– Camden. Through evaluation and study with community partners, Linz and Jerome-D’Emilia and graduate students are researching the issue of mammogram screening in this population and working to educate providers throughout the state. “We would like it to be a model for the rest of the New Jersey health care community,” Linz said. “The ultimate goal is that we are trying to save people’s lives through early detection.”

Posted in: 2019 Fall, Features

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