Heroes aren’t just fictional characters we see in the movies or read about in history books. In our communities there are many unsung heroes that devote their lives in service to others. In commemoration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, University Hospital Foundation launches its first digital awareness campaign called #BeYourOwnHero and will bring together women whose lives were affected by breast cancer.

The campaign is part of the Foundation’s broader effort to raise funds for breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings and to bring services to underserved communities. The Mobile Cancer Screening unit is the latest in a long line of advancements from University Hospital and the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, equipped with high-tech breast imaging equipment and a private examination room.

The hospital’s mobile cancer screening program was first implemented in 1996, and since then, has expanded access to thousands of people, screening more than 27,500 medically underserved women. Dr. Ana M. Natale-Pereira, Division Director, General Internal Medicine and Associate Professor of Medicine at Rutgers NJMS, has lead the program since 2014.

Cancer screening services are provided at no cost to low-income, uninsured NJ residents between the ages of 21 – 64. Dr. Natale-Pereira’s successful efforts to reach underserved communities caught the attention of the Connie Dwyer Breast Cancer Foundation (CDBCF) which has recently partnered with the University Hospital Foundation to raise $1.2 million to purchase a new, state of the art mobile cancer screening unit equipped with high-tech breast imaging and a private examination room.

Dr. Natale is not alone in her work to save lives. Joining the #BeYourOwnHero Campaign is Mary K. E. Maples, Interim CEO and President, University Hospital and Bershan Shaw, two-time breast cancer survivor who was given a three-month prognosis and survived.

“Watching my mom battle breast cancer at a young age, I make it a priority to get screened every year. Living in fear of what may come is not an option. I am joining the Foundation’s efforts to ensure every woman in our community gets screened,” says Interim President/CEO, Mary KE Maples, as she joins the #BeYourOwnHero campaign to raise awareness.

The Mobile Screening Unit will allow the hospital to increase the number of patients we see 1,200 to 4,000 annually.

Bershan Shaw is joining the Foundation to bring mental health services for cancer survivors and others needing support and self-care. Shaw summoned her inner warrior to survive cancer and established the “Warrior Training” program through her business coaching firm. For her most recent project to help others reach their full potential, Bershan launched an app called URA Warrior focused on removing the stigma on mental health and creating a community of supporters. She developed the evidence-based URAWarrior Method with the help of doctors, therapists, cancer patients, research, coaching clients, and addiction recovery coaches. University Hospital’s healthcare workers will be the first audience to experience the app.

“Breast Cancer Awareness month is a great time to remind ourselves and one another to make time to get screened,” says Jess Backofen, Executive Director, University Hospital Foundation. “Our #BeYourOwnHero campaign is critical to raising awareness and dollars for programs that help underserved women access life-saving cancer screenings.”

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