Since Baylor College of Medicine and the Harris County Hospital District began their collaboration in 1999 to care for women at the Ben Taub Breast Oncology Clinic, there have been significant improvements in access to patient care.

"Screening and early detection can be life saving. There are 87,000 women eligible for screening in the county health system; many of them belong to the underserved, or uninsured population," said Dr. Mothaffar Rimawi, medical director of the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center at BCM, and chief of breast medical oncology at Ben Taub General Hospital. "When the Baylor Breast Center was established we identified a large population of women in this group who where diagnosed with advanced, late-stage breast cancer, primarily because of limited access to care and screening."

BCM Breast Center faculty staffs Ben Taub breast clinic

"The Ben Taub Breast Oncology Clinic is staffed by full-time Baylor faculty members," said Rimawi. "We are fortunate to work with an excellent nursing staff provided by Harris County and in partnership with our colleagues from other specialties like surgery, radiology and radiation oncology."

Three clinics operate through Ben Taub, each on a different day: the breast oncology clinic, breast prevention and genetics clinic, and most recently (established in 2009) the long-term survivorship clinic.

"These clinics enable us to provide multi-disciplinary care to this population," said Rimawi. "In addition to improving access to screening, early detection, and state of the art treatment, we are also helping patients determine their risk and assess family history, decide and navigate treatment and manage their survivorship." Combined, these clinics provide more than 2,500 patients visits per year.

"Since the beginning, it has been a very dynamic partnership with Harris County," said Rimawi. "We have worked together to help raise funds from donors and foundations to put in place better resources, such as newer mammography units that allow us to screen many more women."

Improving clinical trial enrollment

BCM research also plays a role at Ben Taub.

"Because we open all of our research studies at both our clinical sites, the Baylor Clinic and Ben Taub Hospital, we are able to enroll patients onto our clinical studies and give them access to new therapies" said Rimawi.

Researchers from the breast center have enrolled more than 1,600 patients in clinical trials, 45 percent of which were from minority groups who are underrepresented in clinical trials nationally.

"Our team is very passionate about the care we provide at Ben Taub," said Rimawi. "We want to continue to expand our reach and efforts."

The BCM Breast Center was established in 1999. In 2007, it was renamed the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center.

The Ben Taub Breast Oncology Clinic has funding support from the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center Advisory Council, Susan G. Komen for the CurePink Ribbons Project, the Avon Foundation for Women and Kappa Kappa Gamma.

On days breast center faculty are not staffing the Ben Taub Breast Oncology Clinic, they see patients at the Baylor Clinic.