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Screening program earns Cancer Coalition national recognition

Mutual of America Foundation honors Cancer Coalition of South Georgia

From left, Thomas Gilliam, chairman/CEO of the Mutual of America Foundation, Cancer Coalition of South Georgia CEO Diane Fletcher and Mutual of America Foundation Vice Chairman Ted Herman show off the national honorable mention award given to the Cancer Coalition for its innovative community cancer screening program. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

From left, Thomas Gilliam, chairman/CEO of the Mutual of America Foundation, Cancer Coalition of South Georgia CEO Diane Fletcher and Mutual of America Foundation Vice Chairman Ted Herman show off the national honorable mention award given to the Cancer Coalition for its innovative community cancer screening program. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

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Diane Fletcher, left, and Denise Ballard receive commemorative coins of recognition from Mutual of America Foundation President/CEO Thomas Gilliam Thursday during a luncheon at Albany’s Hilton Garden Inn. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

ALBANY — A coalition of representatives from the public, private and social services sectors joined the Cancer Coalition of South Georgia Thursday in celebrating the organization’s recognition as an honorable mention recipient of the national Mutual of America Community Partnership Award.

The prestigious Mutual of America Foundation Awards annually recognize nonprofit organizations for the creation of programs that contribute to the betterment of the communities they serve and can be replicated by other communities as they seek to address social issues that impact everyone.

The Cancer Coalition of South Georgia was honored for its community cancer screening program, which provides often lifesaving cancer screenings, health guidance, cancer education, outreach and other medical services to poor and medically under served residents of a 32-county South Georgia region.

The organization received a $25,000 grant as part of its recognition.

“This program is meeting great needs in our area,” Cancer Coalition CEO Diane Fletcher said at a luncheon held at the downtown Hilton Garden Inn. “But our community cancer screening program is not just about the Cancer Coalition staff. It is a community partnership in every sense.

“To me, it is very gratifying to see a vision from eight years ago come to fruition and for the team here to be recognized as the foundation of this effort. From our navigators — who deal directly with the patients — to the support staff, everyone contributes to how well this program functions. Every day, I’m honored to be a part of this group.”

Thomas Gilliam and Ted Herman, the chairman/CEO and vice chairman, respectively, of the Mutual of America Foundation, offered remarks and helped recognize community partners that played key roles in development of the community cancer screening program.

“This program represents the finest of creativity and innovation,” Gilliam said. “It represents your community’s public, private and social services sectors combining their many assets to make a difference. The committee (that screened hundreds of applicants for the awards) felt your program was one of the best in the nation.”

Among the CCSG partners recognized at the luncheon were Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, Tift Regional Medical Center, Albany Area Primary Health Care, Clay County Medical Center, Primary Care of Southwest Georgia, Southwest Georgia Public Health District, South Georgia Public Health District, Phoebe Digestive Health Center, Emory University Prevention Research Center, Phoebe Digestive Health Center, the Affinity Clinic, Tift Community Health Center, Phoebe Family Medicine Residency Program and the Miller County Hospital and Medical Center.

Herman said the Mutual of America Foundation received hundreds of applications from “every state of the union and every area of the country.”

“The Cancer Coalition of South Georgia is now recognized as one of 180 groups that are working together to make life in America better,” he said. “Your program is certainly making a difference in so many lives in so many ways.”

Fletcher, Cancer Coalition Vice President of Cancer Prevention and Control Denise Ballard, Dr. James Hotz, Phoebe CEO Joel Wernick, Dr. Gandhiji Yalamanchili, Dr. Raymond Moreno and Miller County Hospital CEO Robin Rau were recipients of commemorative coins distributed by Gilliam and Herman.

“I found out when I came here many years ago from an urban setting (Boston) to a rural one (Early County) that I was wrong in thinking health care is accessible to all Americans,” Rau said. “That’s why this Cancer Coalition program is so vital to this region.

“In a recent six-month period, we did 100 screenings, and more than a third of the people screened had some type of health issue that otherwise would not have been detected until much later. Now, as we send those patients on to Phoebe, Joel (Wernick) and his folks shouldn’t have to deal with only long-term care. That’s important.”