by Paula M. Riley

Chestnut Hill Hospital’s Breast Health Program was recently named a Breast Center of Excellence by the National Consortium of Breast Centers and become the only center in the Commonwealth to receive this distinction.

Local resident Jane Parker, however, doesn’t pay much attention to this or the other quality awards the Hospital has received. At 75, she just beat her second bout with breast cancer and for her the proof is in the pudding.

“I can tell you first-hand that they (CH Hospital Breast Health Program) have a combination of a personal, reassuring and totally professional approach that is certainly not found in the medical world. I’ve dealt within hospitals downtown, and let me tell you, it’s a totally different experience here,” Parker said.

Seven years ago, Parker found a lump while doing a self-breast exam at home. Her biopsy confirmed she had an aggressive breast cancer but getting that test result wasn’t what she remembers the most about that day.

“I’ll never forget what she (Dr. Pat Bailey) said to me,” Parker recalls. “She told me, ‘You are not sick, you have a problem and we are going to fix it.’”

That’s just what Bailey and her team at the Breast Health Program did. Parker had surgery, chemotherapy and radiation all at Chestnut Hill. Recently, she discovered another form of cancer in the other breast. She had a lumpectomy and is now in remission and singing the praises of the Breath Health Program staff.

“They are just so very, very good at the personal attention,” Parker said.

One of these staff members is Gail Linberg, R.N. Her role as nurse coordinator puts her in front of the hundreds of women who get mammograms each year. When these exams show an abnormality Linberg works with the patient to explain the abnormality, schedule a biopsy, assist during the procedure, review discharge instructions, call the patient in the subsequent days and deliver biopsy result.

“Much of what I do is comforting and reassuring women.” Gail said. “I give them lots of personal attention and try to answer all their questions.”

When a malignancy is discovered, Gail coordinates the discussion with Breast Health Program general surgeons, Pat Bailey, M.D. (recently named a Top Doc 2013 by Philadelphia Magazine for surgery) or Jessica Santiago, M.D. They two perform more than 100 surgeries a year and now conduct them in the new state-of-the-art surgical suite in the hospital new wing.

The outcomes of these surgical procedures were one of the many quality indicators evaluated by the National Consortium of Breast Centers before awarding Chestnut Hill Hospital this distinction.

Other measures included the time between initial screening and diagnostic exam, time between biopsy and pathology result, and the rate of needle biopsies to surgical biopsies. (Generally biopsy results are delivered in 1 to 2 days and there is less than a week wait between abnormal mammogram and biopsy).

These, and many other, quality indicators have been tracked for five years and the Chestnut Hill Breast Health Program has moved from the recognition of “Certified” to “Quality” and now have received the highest rating of “Center of Excellence.”

“It is important to consider that our Breast Health Program is being compared to other hospitals all around the country,” said hospital CEO John Ciacciamani. “We are happy and proud to offer such high quality services to the women in our community.”

Ciacciamani often speaks of the Hospital’s commitment to the local community. An illustration of this is the Breast Health Program’s support for those members of the community who may not have the opportunity to care for themselves.

Four times a year, the Program hosts free mammograms for the uninsured and underinsured women. Of the 100 screened last year, two were found to have a malignancy and received care through the Healthy Women Program.

Patients of the Breast Health Program at Chestnut Hill Hospital, who have been diagnosed within the last year, are invited to a special invite-only Unite for Her Wellness Day. On Sunday, June 9, these women will be treated for a full day of massages, therapies, yoga, acupuncture, and dietitian consultants.

“We have just about everything to help women going through treatment to feel better about themselves,” said Linberg.