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Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center Turns 20

There is a famous Margaret Mead quote that says, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Nothing could be truer about the small group of local folks who believed that a breast care center in the small town of Windber, PA. could become known throughout the country.

Twenty years ago, friendship and the commitment to help others became the foundation that built what is known today as the Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center.

It all started when Jeanne Mckelvey was diagnosed with breast cancer. She could have gone anywhere for treatment but she chose to stay near home in Windber where she had the support of family and good friends. Joyce Murtha was one of those friends.

As a Windber Medical Center (WMC) board member, Jeanne had always been a patient advocate. While navigating breast cancer herself, she met other women who had been misdiagnosed or had to travel out of town for appointments and care. She recognized that this disease was prevalent in this area and this area needed a dedicated breast care center.

Jeanne’s cancer hit close to home for Joyce and her husband, Congressman John P. Murtha. As a congressional representative, he had the ability to invoke change. His involvement with combatting breast cancer started a decade before the Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center was even a thought. In 1990, mammography wasn’t offered at many military hospitals and breast care and treatment was noticeably lacking. Working with doctors, advocates and Congressional leaders, Rep. Murtha fought for funding that would impact the entire military health-care system in the area of screenings, prevention, treatment and breast cancer research. And so, it began.

It was through the connections of Representative Murtha that support would eventually come to the little town of Windber, Pennsylvania; but not right away because the path to funding was not an easy one. The first try for funding was denied. Nick Jacobs, former CEO/President of WMC and Windber Research Institute (WRI) believed in this project and resubmitted the grant again. This time, $7.5 million dollars was granted to start the Clinical Breast Care Project, a collaboration between Walter Reed Army Medical Center, WMC and WRI. Samples of normal and abnormal breast tissue were to be collected and banked for breast cancer research. Twenty years later that partnership and the Clinical Breast Care Project still exist.

When funding was finally in place, the plan for a one-stop, patient centered breast care center began to take shape. The building itself would sit away from the hospital, on a wooded hill overlooking historic Windber, with many windows that would let in natural light. It would not feel like a medical facility and it would be named the Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center (JMBCC).

Remember the small group of thoughtful individuals committed to changing the world? With Joyce Murtha as the leader, this group made their vision a reality. The JMBCC would become the premier breast care facility in this area and would focus on prevention and screening, as well as to provide state-of-the-art imaging and the latest treatment, supporting both women and men. The JMBCC would also participate in the latest research efforts, headed by the local Windber Research Institute. Because at the end of the day, there had to be hope and progress towards a cure.

With input from Jeanne and other breast cancer patients, it was decided that “the little things” would set the Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center apart. The attention-to-detail could help make the screening and treatment process a little more comfortable, a little less intimidating and a little bit more bearable.

“Our focus is simple—–patient care, comfort and correct treatment,” said Joyce Murtha 20 years ago. Those words stand true today and are carried out by the Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center team under the guidance of Director of Women’s Services Erin Goins.

About Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center
The Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center (JMBCC) opened in February 2002 offering comprehensive and personalized breast care in one convenient location. The JMBCC is exists to prevent and treat diseases of the breast and other conditions that can impact the lives of the women served. The tools and techniques used include digital mammography, ultrasound, breast biopsies, breast MRI, bone densitometry, genetic counseling, research studies, and a female breast surgeon on-site.

About Chan Soon-Shiong Medical Center at Windber
Founded in 1906, Chan Soon-Shiong Medical Center at Windber (CSSMCW) is an independent, non-profit acute care hospital in northern Somerset County, bordering Cambria County. The 54-bed hospital shares a campus and collaborates with Chan Soon-Shiong Institute of Molecular Medicine at Windber (CSSIMMW), a private, non-profit biomedical research center. With more than 450 employees, CSSMCW is the fourth largest employer in Somerset County. CSSMCW’s mission is to provide excellence in personalized, quality health care services through innovation, research and education in response to community needs. For more information visit www.windbercare.org.