Community Health Center Inspires Women to Promote Breast Cancer Screenings

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La Maestra Family Clinic, Inc. launches Promotoras en la Ciudad, a program to improve breast cancer awareness and screenings

La Maestra's imaging and health education staff stand in circle in front of mobile unit, pink ribbon in background.

La Maestra's imaging team and health outreach staff work to improve culturally and linguistically competent breast cancer awareness, education, and prevention in underserved communities.

People seek a sense of community; they seek a sense of belonging. — Zara Marselian, Chief Executive Officer

La Maestra Family Clinic, Inc., a nonprofit 501(c)(3) Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), is launching Promotoras en la Ciudad or Promotoras in the City with funding from Hologic, Inc.. Promotoras, also known as volunteer, community health workers, provide culturally and linguistically appropriate outreach and health education. With funding from Hologic, Inc., La Maestra will promote breast cancer awareness and increase preventive breast cancer screenings in the underserved communities of City Heights, El Cajon and National City. These events are designed to inform underserved women ages 25 and older about the importance of early breast cancer detection where they live, work, shop, and worship. At these events, promotoras encourage their peers to obtain screenings and share free information and resources on clinical breast exams and mammograms.

Promotoras in the City began March 1, 2016, with biweekly community events and will continue throughout 2016. Utilizing the organization’s 36-foot, state-of-the-art mobile mammography coach to target underserved communities of San Diego, promotoras engage individuals in the community to provide health education and outreach, and to schedule clinical breast exams and mammograms. The organization’s mobile unit is equipped with full-field digital mammography equipment and 3D Tomosynthesis, which creates a virtual environment with three-dimensional views allowing physicians to examine breast tissue with a high degree of accuracy. Tomosynthesis provides improves detection of small cancers that may otherwise go undetected with conventional mammography, and the false positive rate is reduced by up to 40 percent.

Esperanza Aguilar, a 61-year-old survivor of stage four breast cancer and former promotora at La Maestra said, “I do not speak any English. La Maestra gave me [an] opportunity.” When asked about her time as a promotora, she said, “I really love[d] it. She added, “It is unbelievable the amount of people who do not receive mammograms.” She explains that there is a lot of bad information in the community. Cultural assimilation and the acceptance of Western preventive medicine among immigrant and refugee communities is a significant barrier to obtaining needed preventive care.

Margarita Colin, another breast cancer survivor, and former promotora said, "I never noticed anything. It was silent. No pain.” That was four years ago. Now, as a patient of La Maestra, Colin is cancer free and currently in remission. Colin said, “The oncologist says that I am clean.” When asked why she became a promotora, Colin replied, “To help many, many women.”

Zara Marselian, La Maestra Chief Executive Officer said, “People seek a sense of community; they seek a sense of belonging.” Promotoras en la Ciudad delivers on that exact premise. By bringing linguistically and culturally appropriate care to the community, people are reassured in their sense of belonging and are more likely to access preventive care.


La Maestra Family Clinic, Inc., ( is a nonprofit 501(c)(3), Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC). The organization operates five primary care clinics, nine dental clinics, four school-based satellite sites, one mobile medical/dental unit, and a new state-of-the-art mobile mammography coach in central, east and south San Diego County.

The mission of La Maestra Family Clinic, Inc. is to provide quality health care and education; to improve the overall well-being of the family; bringing the underserved, ethnically diverse communities into the mainstream of society through a caring, effective, culturally and linguistically competent manner, respecting the dignity of all patients.


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Corinne Knutson
since: 06/2009
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La Maestra Community Health Centers
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