AstraZeneca grant funds breast health navigators

Juan Santamaria, MD

UNMC program serves Omaha women from underserved communities

Omaha, Nebraska — AstraZeneca has awarded the University of Nebraska Medical Center a $25,000 grant for a breast health navigator program to help Omaha women from medically underserved communities receive appropriate early detection and breast cancer treatment.

The grant to the Nebraska Breast Health Navigation Program (NBHNP) was made through the University of Nebraska Foundation.

NBHNP seeks to increase mammography screening rates among Black and Latina women in North and South Omaha and increase the proportion of Black and Latina patients who take part in clinical trials at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center at UNMC.

“This amazing and generous AstraZeneca grant will assist us with our breast cancer navigator program to decrease barriers of breast cancer care to minority and underserved patients in Omaha,” said Juan Santamaria, MD, program director. “The support of AstraZeneca is crucial to our endeavor to improve breast cancer health equity among minority women. This grant will impact cancer health in our minority population in a very positive way.”

NBHNP will train eight to 10 lay volunteers with personal or family experience with breast cancer. The navigators will act as guides for patients during screening and treatment visits, assist with appointment coordination, provide education about breast cancer treatments and offer emotional and family support. The navigators also will help identify barriers to screening including logistical, financial or insurance-related hurdles. Navigators serving Spanish-only speaking Latinas will be proficient in Spanish. Before becoming navigators, volunteers will complete a 12-week training course led by Dr. Santamaria and breast health specialists from UNMC.

Phyllis Mitchell-Butler is one of two recently hired navigator administrator coordinators at UNMC. She said volunteer training has begun, and navigators may begin to meet with patients in April.

“We are ecstatic about this AstraZeneca gift because it will give us more power to be in a position to help minority and underserved women with breast cancer barriers,” Mitchell-Butler said. “We have some very dedicated breast cancer survivors who are ready to get started.”

Phyllis Mitchell-Butler

One of those survivors is Indira Engel. She was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in 2009, a few days after finding a painful lump in her breast. Engel and her husband took notes and recorded her doctor’s appointments but still felt in over their heads and filled with fear.

“We were blessed with an incredibly proactive group of neighbors and friends who helped us get through our new reality,” she said. “Through my journey, I met other women who were not as fortunate and didn’t have the support necessary to overcome obstacles for seeking treatment. Thus, when I came across the breast cancer navigator program, I realized this was a much-needed tool for underserved newly diagnosed patients, and I wanted to be part of it.”

NBHNP’s community partners include My Sister’s Keeper (a breast cancer support group for women of color in Nebraska). Other funding for the program was provided by UNMC, the John Wayne Cancer Foundation and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

The AstraZeneca grant is part of Only in Nebraska: A Campaign for Our University’s Future. The campaign strives to raise $3 billion from 150,000 unique benefactors to support the University of Nebraska. More information is at 


About the University of Nebraska Foundation

The University of Nebraska Foundation grows relationships and resources that enable the University of Nebraska to change lives and save lives. During the most recent fiscal year, a record 60,571 donors gave $300.6 million to the foundation to aid UNK, UNO, UNL, UNMC and its clinical partner, Nebraska Medicine, and NCTA. The foundation raises more than $7 for every $1 it spends. Only in Nebraska: A Campaign for Our University’s Future is its current campaign.

About UNMC

We are Nebraska Medicine and UNMC. Our mission is to lead the world in transforming lives to create a healthy future for all individuals and communities through premier educational programs, innovative research and extraordinary patient care.

Contacts: John Keenan, UNMC Strategic Communications, 402-559-8329,

Connie White, University of Nebraska Foundation, 402-502-4922, 402-320-2340

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