On Tuesday, May 12, at 4:30 pm in the 7th floor Conference Center at the JCC, Engage volunteers will have the opportunity to learn how they can become companions for breast cancer patients during screening, diagnostic follow-up, and treatment. Representatives from the Breast Cancer Treatment Task Force (BTTF) will explain the organization’s mission and the role Engage can play in facilitating healthcare access to women who would otherwise go without it.

Founded in 2005 by Janet Zaballero and Julia A. Smith, MD, BTTF provides access to screening and treatment for breast cancer for uninsured patients who are ineligible for Medicaid. It is a project close to Ms. Zaballero’s heart. After having been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer in her late 20s, Ms. Zaballero  was overwhelmed by the medical bills she had to pay and, like many young women, she had no insurance. With this experience came the realization that there were many women out there who make $28,500–$46,100 a year who could not afford health insurance, but did not qualify for state or federal programs. “Many work two jobs and are doing their best to make ends meet,” Zaballero observes. “What do you do when you must choose between food and medical care?” It was then that Zaballero approached Dr. Smith, director of Breast Cancer Screening and Prevention Programs at NYU Bellevue, and together they established the Breast Treatment Task Force.

 BTTF, a nonprofit organization supported by grants and donations, has provided over $12.4 million in medical care to patients since December 2006. In addition to Bellevue, BTTF now has medical partnerships with five other medical facilities in Manhattan and Brooklyn.      

While Ms. Zaballero and Dr. Smith have been successful in garnering financial support and medical partners, it's become apparent that nothing can replace human companionship when it comes to providing support and comfort to the women in the BTTF program. “Having someone to talk to or [to] just be there when a patient is sitting in the waiting room to take her mind off her concerns makes breathing a little easier,” says Ms. Zaballero. To address that very important aspect of patient care, the Patient Companion Volunteer Program was added to BTTF’s activities. This is where Engage can provide important support.

Volunteers are assigned to one patient and are responsible for reminding them of their mammogram and sonogram appointments and accompanying them when they go. Most importantly, a volunteer provides invaluable comfort and support by just being there. Engage participants can play an important role in helping others lead healthier lives.

Register online or contact Rabbi Brian Fink at 646-505-4408646-505-4408 for information on how you can participate in the program.