By Ferlanda Fox Nixon
How do you help African-American women overcome their fear of mammograms? You demystify the process and have lots of fun while doing so.
That is exactly what the Morristown Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, and the other partners of the African American Wellness Coalition have been doing since October 2015 with its Women’s Night Out signature event. This year was no different – except for hosting the event virtually due to restrictions on in-person gatherings because of the coronavirus pandemic and dubbing it the Virtual Women’s Health Forum accordingly.
On Oct. 24, 2020, in a congenial and festive cybersphere of sisterhood, attendees listened to healthcare professionals discuss various women’s health and wellness topics of concern for African-American women. The program also included a virtual tour of the Julius Ripple Breast Center at Morristown Medical Center’s Carol G. Simon Cancer Center and culminated with games and prizes.
Dr. Christina Johnson, a family-medicine physician, talked about the challenges of maintaining good health in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak. Dr. Judy Banks, the director of the associate residency program at Morristown Medical Center/Atlantic Health System and a former practicing obstetrician and gynecologist, shared information about breast cancer, general breast health, and uterine fibroids. Joyce Travers-Johnson, a behavioral health clinician in crisis intervention at Morristown Medical Center/Atlantic Health System and a chaplain, advised on how to cope with stress during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Women’s Night Out and the Virtual Women’s Health Forum were designed to raise African-American women’s awareness of breast cancer and increase mammogram registrations and screenings. Approximately 60 women attended this year’s event,” noted Carol Poe, the chair of the African American Wellness Coalition from 2017 - 2020. “In prior years, we have attracted as many as 65 participants, and at one event, 20 women were screened.”
“We are grateful for the dedication of partners like the Morristown Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., in furthering our mission to provide information and resources that help to reduce health disparities and improve the overall quality of life and wellbeing among African Americans in Morris County, New Jersey,” Poe added.
Morristown Alumnae is one of 10 founding partners of the African American Wellness Coalition, with members of the chapter serving as health ambassadors. “Our role is to help ensure the success and sustainability of the organization,” stated Vanessa Davis, one of several Morristown Alumnae representatives involved with the coalition. “We help plan, promote, and execute events, donate gifts, and assist with the mammogram registrations and screenings. Most importantly, our participation helps to save lives in our community.” In addition to Davis, Morristown Alumnae members Ernestine Cash, Alexis Gardner, and Bettie Jarvis actively participate in the coalition.
In recognition of its efforts, the African American Wellness Coalition received the 2019 Game Changer Award from the Morris County Branch of the NAACP. “It’s rewarding to know that we are making a positive impact in our community,” acknowledged Poe.