Baptist Uses Grant Funds to Treat 20-Year-Old Homeless Patient With Breast Cancer Concerns

Oct 23 • 2019
Shuntavia Bowman

Homeless Patient Receives Much-Needed Breast Care at Mobile Clinic

A lump in the breast is frightening, even if it turns out to be noncancerous. When Shuntavia Bowman — who was just 16 years old at the time — found a lump in her breast in 2015, she didn’t know what to do.

“I was in high school when I found the lump,” said Bowman. “I lost weight, my breasts shrunk and my menstrual cycles were difficult. I didn’t want to believe I had cancer. I wanted to believe the lump would go away, so I didn’t tell my mom.”

Two years passed before Bowman revealed her concerns to her family, who took her to the emergency department. However, without health insurance, she couldn’t afford the tests doctors recommended. Again, her health took a backseat as she experienced additional hardships, including homelessness.

Recently, Bowman’s sister found a way to help.

“Her sister expressed concern to her teacher who then called me,” said Janice Taylor, program director for Baptist Operation Outreach. “When we heard about her situation, we immediately welcomed Shuntavia for testing.”

Baptist Operation Outreach is a free health care clinic for individuals or families without permanent housing. It started as a mobile clinic operated by Baptist Memorial Health Care and Christ Community Health Services in 2005. In 2019, Baptist Operation Outreach added a clinic location at the Catholic Charities of West Tennessee midtown location.

Long-Awaited Medical Care

At Baptist Operation Outreach, Bowman met with a nurse practitioner who examined her and referred her to Baptist Women’s Health Center for a mammogram.

“During her mammogram, doctors determined she needed diagnostic tests,” said Taylor. “Testing confirmed she needed surgery to remove some of the lumps in her breast.”

Bowman had seven noncancerous lumps in her breast, called fibroadenoma. Doctors don’t know what causes fibroadenoma, but it can grow larger over time or spread to other organs.

“My surgery was a smooth process,” said Bowman. “I’m grateful that the mobile clinic and Baptist Memorial Hospital provided all the services I needed. They even helped me find a way to pay.”

Because Bowman’s mammogram results were abnormal, she was enrolled in the Susan G. Komen Memphis-MidSouth Mississippi program at Baptist. The program helps patients access grant funding for breast care. As an eligible candidate, Bowman received testing and treatment free of charge.

Baptist Operation Outreach Services

Many patients like Bowman seek medical care in the emergency department because they don’t have the funds to go to an ordinary clinic. According to Taylor, Baptist Operation Outreach alleviates the barrier to medical care for the homeless population.

“All the services homeless patients receive when they come to our location are free of charge,” said Taylor. “In fact, 85% of the patients we serve are uninsured and don’t have the ability to pay for their medical care.”

Baptist Operation Outreach connects patients with a physician who uses an electronic system to record the details of the visit. This practice makes it simple for the mobile clinic to share patient records with other doctors or institutions who may request them.

“It also ensures our patients receive consistent primary care,” said Taylor. “Patients are put into the system and the physician schedules a follow-up appointment or writes a referral for a specialty provider, if necessary. We make it easy for patients to continue seeing us as their primary care provider.”

Patients may access a variety of services at the clinic, including adult immunization and other preventive care, behavioral health services, screenings and diagnosis of medical and health problems, treatment and management of specific diseases and minor injuries.

Making Health a Priority

If she could go back in time, Bowman would do things differently. She would give her 16-year-old self the same advice she has for others.

“No matter how scared or fearful you may be, go get checked,” said Bowman. “Ladies, men and anyone who may need to make important decisions about their health — please don’t put it off. Take care of yourself. If you or someone you know in Memphis is homeless, living at a shelter or staying on a friend’s sofa, visit Ms. Taylor at the mobile clinic. She makes it her mission to help you.”

The Baptist Operation Outreach clinic is located at 1325 Jefferson Ave. Clinic hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Baptist Operation Outreach mobile clinic travels to different locations throughout Memphis during the month. To find out where the mobile clinic will be, visit Baptist Operation Outreach’s webpage or call 901-842-3167.

Explore how Baptist helps patients access grant funding for breast cancer care. Learn more about how Baptist uses its resources and expertise to achieve the greatest good for the homeless community in Memphis. Find a doctor by visiting our Find a Doctor page.