Return Engagement: See, Test & Treat 2021

With a Deadly Pandemic in Retreat, Montefiore Offers Lifesaving Cancer Screenings To Underserved Women in the Bronx

Early on Saturday morning, May 15, when most New Yorkers were just waking up to the start of a beautiful spring weekend, a group of volunteers assembled in the lobby of Montefiore Health System’s Greene Medical Arts Pavilion in the Bronx. With the precision of a seasoned theater troupe they were hustling to get ready for “show time.” In the Radiology suite one floor below, healthcare providers and staff from OB/GYN and Radiology were just as busy. They were setting up for the cancer screenings they’d be administering to women for whom these routine healthcare services are normally out of reach.

Ready for Showtime
Ready for “show time.” From left: STT Volunteers Frances Mendez, Dolis Ruiz and Pam Curtin.

Across campus in the Hofheimer Pavilion, Mark Suhrland, MD, chief of cytopathology, and his Clinical Cytology Laboratory team by led by Ellen Reiches, senior supervisor, and Cytopathology medical staff were gearing up to process and analyze the plastic containers containing Pap specimens that soon would be thrust into their gloved and capable hands by volunteer “runners.”

All of this activity was the culmination of months of planning for See, Test and Treat (STT), a community outreach event that offers uninsured and underinsured women in the Bronx, ages 21-64, free breast and cervical cancer screenings, rapid results and free follow-up care, if needed. Spearheaded by the Montefiore Einstein Department of Pathology in collaboration with the Departments of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Women’s Health and of Radiology, and funded in part by the College of American Pathologists Foundation, See Test & Treat has been an annual rite of spring at Montefiore for nearly a decade. Until last year, that is, when the COVID-19 pandemic brought down the curtain.

On with the Show

In March 2020, the sudden onset of the COVID-19 pandemic catapulted the New York metropolitan area to world attention as the epicenter of the global pandemic. And Montefiore’s Gun Hill neighborhood and surrounding areas of the Bronx assumed an unenviable claim to fame: the epicenter of the epicenter.

Checking in. Fran Mendez gives a newly arrived attendee her wristband.

“In terms of See, Test & Treat, 2020 was the exception that could not be avoided,” explains Dr. Suhrland. “We were in full crisis mode here at Montefiore.” After months of pondering the feasibility of a STT revival for spring 2021, the steady decline in COVID hospital admissions and deaths toward year’s end offered a ray of hope.

The Executive Producer

“Our institutional mission, like that of See Test & Treat, is to serve the underserved,” notes Dr. Suhrland. “It would be out of the question to deny potentially life-saving services for a second year in a row to a population of women in our community who desperately need them.”

Mark Suhrland
Mark J. Suhrland, MD, Division Chief, Cytopathology

So, starting in January, he led a four-member team in preparing for a See, Test & Treat unlike any other. To allay fears of contracting the virus that might keep women in their target population from entering the building, they established a strict COVID-safety protocol, giving it prominent notice in all pre-event publicity: temp checks at the door, tape markers on the floor for proper social distancing, provision of masks and hand sanitizer.

The Director

When Dr. Suhrland announced his intent to move ahead, Judy Huie-Kennedy, a full-time marketing specialist in the Pathology Department’s Customer Service Division, was all in.

Judy Huie-Kennedy with mask on
Judy Huie-Kennedy, Marketing Specialist, Pathology Customer Service

For Ms. Huie-Kennedy See Test & Treat is personal. “You might say it’s a passion of mine,” she confides. “As an advanced stage cervical cancer survivor, I know firsthand how critically important it is for women to get routine screenings. How one simple test can literally save your life.” Having started out as a rank-and-file volunteer four years ago, she made her debut as project coordinator of the entire production this year.

Ms. Huie-Kennedy’s experience as a member of a community opera company served her well. Like any operatic production, she points out, See, Test & Treat has many moving parts. To wit, a partial list of her responsibilities: securing supplies such as drapes, gowns and specula; creating and distributing promotional posters and flyers; reaching out to local clinics, churches and food pantries serving the target population; working with Montefiore’s PR team to alert local media; setting up a Facebook page; recruiting and supervising volunteers; overseeing the pre-registration process; ordering tchotchkes for patient giveaways and STT tee-shirts and pizza for volunteers; nailing down commitments from local support groups, health agencies and other community resources to provide on-site representatives; liaising with the CAP Foundation; ensuring a COVID-safe environment and smooth workflow at the event.

Dr. Bruney and residents
Stage Left: Dr. Talitha Bruney, STT OB/GYN team leader and mentor (second from left), with residents, from left: Dr. Stephanie Pottinger, Dr. Cyrus Jalai and Dr. Ashley Duhon, Montefiore Einstein Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Women’s Health.

Like any smart director, Ms. Huie Kennedy knows how to find talent, and how to delegate. Inspired by her and Dr. Suhrland’s impassioned pitches about See, Test & Treat, a corps of enthusiastic volunteers stepped up to join the effort, both during the lead-up to and on the day of the event.

The Co-Stars

The success of See Test & Treat hinges on the participation of highly skilled and compassionate healthcare providers from Montefiore’s OB/GYN and Radiology teams, and their support staff, who donate their time and expertise. They are the key partners in this undertaking, being the providers of these essential screenings, and performing a plethora of support activities, including patient registration into the system. Their commitment to follow-up care is key to connecting the patients in need to the health care system.

Radiology Team
Stage Right: The Radiology team, from left: Krystal Torres, Vanessa Jimenez R.T (M), Evelyn Perez (US Technologist). Front: Rose Mary Cabreja R.T (M); Aracely Nieto R.T (M); Takouhie Maldjian, MD (Radiologist); Jubilee Beatrice R.T. (M); Yelena Kozirovsky, MD (Radiologist); Esteban Cortes.

Talitha L. M. Bruney, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist, assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and medical director of a Bronx-based family health clinic, has played an essential leadership role in STT for many years. This year Dr. Bruney was assisted in conducting Pap tests and breast exams by Drs. Calvin Lambert, Ashley Duhon, Said Saab, Ayoka Adams, Curtis Appel, Cyrus Jalai and Stephanie Pottinger.

Radiologists Yelena Kozirovsky, MD, and Takouhie Maldijian, MD, led the team conducting mammograms for the breast cancer screenings.

Lamar Duncan, Montefiore’s imaging manager/assistant administrator, and Rose Mary Cabreja, special radiology technician, both volunteer for See, Test & Treat every year. Mr. Duncan, who grew up in Montefiore’s Gun Hill Road neighborhood, sees STT as a way to give back to the community he loves.

Shining Stars Behind the Scenes

Cytology Lab Team
The Cytology Lab team, Montefiore Einstein Department of Pathology. From left: Margaret Smith, Cytology Prep Tech; Norie Joson, Cytotech; Valenteen Ozari, Cytotech; Tina Patel, Cytology Prep Tech; Lynda Nhan, Cytotech.

The Supporting Cast

An eclectic group of volunteers, from both Montefiore and nearby Westchester County, all were eager to lend their time and talent.

Dolis Ruiz, MS, Pathology’s quality management systems supervisor, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, has volunteered for the past three STT’s. This year, she pre-registered women over the phone and served as an on-site greeter and language interpreter at the event.

Sebastian Jofre, DO, a cytopathology fellow, played a key role in publicizing the event, setting up and managing a bilingual STT Facebook page and translating posters and flyers into Spanish. On the day of the event he teamed up with fellow Cytopathology trainee Arash Lahoutiharahdashti, MD, to engage with attendees in a patient-education activity involving Pap specimen slides and a double-headed microscope.

Pathology resident Raquel Yokoda, MD, and MD/PhD (Pathology) candidate Rosiris Leon Rivera, PhD signed on as patient navigators and language interpreters. Frances Mendez, cytopathology fellowship program administrator who is also bilingual in Spanish and English and a longtime STT volunteer, doubled as chief greeter and trouble-shooter. Mica Grantham, MD, a fellow in the Pathology Department’s Women’s Health program, greeted attendees and was was on hand to answer medical questions.

Talitha Bruney and Janet Omene
Dr. Talitha Bruney, OB/GYN, a longtime STT clinical team leader, left, and Janet Omene, supervisor, Pathology courier & logistics, discuss a Pap specimen. Looking on at far left: Gjakolina Pergjoni, senior clerk, Montefiore Einstein Department of Radiology.

Jean Marfil, associate director of Montefiore infection control, oversaw the implementation and enforcement of COVID protocols.

Janet Omene, supervisor of courier and logistics for Pathology’s Customer Service Division, picked up the promotional posters and flyers and installed them in strategic locations. On the day of the event she ran Pap specimens to the Cytology Laboratory.

Wanda Guzman-Delgado and Maria Mangan, project coordinators at the Einstein Institute for Aging Research, worked the Radiology suite as patient navigators.

Dynamic Duet
Dynamic duet: A learning experience on both sides. Cytopathology Fellow Arash Lahoutiharahdashti, MD, converses with an attendee as they view a Pap specimen slide through the double-headed microscope.

Pam Curtin, a clinical laboratory consultant, and retirees Angela Usobiaga and Ernie Kennedy – all first-time STT volunteers -- served as patient ambassadors and patient navigators.


In one corner of the lobby Cytopathology fellows Sebastian Jofre, DO, and Arash Lahoutiharahdashti, MD, invited attendees awaiting their test results to join them (socially distanced) in peering through a double-headed microscope to view slides of Pap specimens. The trainees got to practice their communication skills with real patients, explaining the science behind the screenings, as well as the pathologist’s role in patient care. They were pleasantly surprised to see how interested the women were in learning. The attendees also picked up patient-education pamphlets about HPV vaccinations produced by Dr. Suhrland with a previous year’s grant from the CAPF.

Caring quartet
Caring quartet: Ready for action at the double-headed microscope station.
Seated: Cytopathology Fellows Arash Lahoutiharahdashti, MD, (left) and Sebastian Jofre, DO. Standing: Mica Grantham, MD, Women’s Health Pathology Fellow (left) and Raquel Teixeira Yokoda, MD, Pathology Chief Resident PGY2,

Rave Reviews

A total of 18 women ranging in age from 36 to 65 participated See, Test & Treat 2021.

Here is a sampling of their comments:

“Gracias, dios les bendiga.”

“Thank you all. The team was wonderful. I can’t say enough of their kindness and care. Your team demonstrates the Montefiore mission to help the community more and more.”

“Thank you for the opportunity to have a mammogram and sonogram. Everyone was so nice and helpful, making me feel so welcome and well-taken-care-of.”

And here’s what some of our volunteers had to say:

Thanks for a great day! I was so inspired by the medical staff and their dedication, and also by the other volunteers, who have such busy lives but still made time to give up some precious time to help. It was a pleasure to be among such a great group of people! Angela Usobiaga, first-time STT volunteer
See, Test & Treat is a very worthy cause. The time spent is rewarding, knowing we’re helping, in our small way, to provide necessary healthcare for women with limited means. Pam Curtin, clinical laboratory consultant and first-time STT volunteer
I’m glad we’re able to offer See, Test & Treat again because last year was a very difficult year for all of us. I like helping people. I’m bilingual and a lot of the ladies don’t speak English. They need interpreters. Frances Mendez, adminstrator, Cytopathology Fellowship Program
My wife Judy asked if I could come down and help out and I said "yes!" See, Test & Treat is a fantastic idea and great for the community. For women who areshy or don't have the economic resources, Montefiore does a great service. Ernie Kennedy, community opera company member and first-time STT volunteer
Proud to be part of this amazing event for the Bronx Community! Raquel Yokoda, MD, Pathology Chief Resident PGY-2 (via Twitter)
Harmonious Trio
Harmonious trio. STT Volunteers, from left: Ernie Kennedy, Dr. Raquel Yokoda, Fran Mendez.

Same Time Next Year

See, Test & Treat is the legacy of Eugene Herbek, MD, a widely respected pathologist and mentor to generations of pathologists, who died in 2020. A longtime CAP board member, Dr. Herbek dedicated his life’s work to the principle that quality healthcare should be accessible to all people, regardless of ability to pay. The prototype he created for See, Test & Treat has become a national model, and the CAP Foundation is marking its 10th anniversary this year.

Judy Huie-Kennedy
Judy Huie-Kennedy, unmasked.

The Foundation’s Herbek Award honors pathologists who take innovative approaches to implementing See, Test & Treat. Dr. Mark Suhrland is a past recipient. “I’m delighted with our program’ s success in this particularly challenging year,” he says. “I can’t say enough about Judy’s leadership, and about the dedication of our amazing clinical partners, cytology lab team and volunteers.” Does he plan to apply for a CAPF grant for next year? “Absolutely!”

“Each year we build upon the previous year’s efforts,” adds Ms. Huie-Kennedy. “We hope to widen the net next year to include women from other ethnic and cultural communities in the Bronx and lower Westchester County, as well as additional community resources we’ve identified that focus on women’s health.”

As they packed up their file folders and boxes at the end of a long day, Ms. Ruiz remarked, “As long as God gives me life I will be here next year.”

“God will give you life, Dolis,” a smiling Ms. Huie-Kennedy reassured her. “God will give you life.”

She summed up the day as she would a boffo opera performance, “Good show, everybody!”

“Backstage” with Sebastian Jofre, DO, Cytopathology Fellow

As a pathologist I rarely get the opportunity to discuss diagnoses with patients. Because my work involves reading Pap smears, biopsies, and organ resections under the microscope, I’m often removed from the front lines of patient care. Instead, I do my work in the hospital laboratory.

Participating in See, Test & Treat allows me to connect my craft with the very humans whose lives I work to improve. It’s an opportunity that I don’t often get, but makes my work much more meaningful.

Sebastian Jofre
Sebastian Jofre, DO

From See Test & Treat I’ve learned that behind every slide is a person with fears, insecurities, questions, and real emotions that I often forget to acknowledge. That’s why my participation in this event is so valuable to me, as it allows me to empathize with humanity, and reminds me that my practice makes a tremendous impact on my patients’ lives.

It reminds me that being a pathologist is more than going through the motions of identifying the disease on the slide, but rather it’s the art of synthesizing all the information that I can gather from each patient’s clinical history, social circumstances, and laboratory studies to make the best, and most informed, diagnosis.

I would recommend that every pathology trainee participate in volunteer activities with direct patient contact such as See, Test & Treat. In my case, it reminded me of the reasons why I went into medicine in the first place, and has renewed my motivation to become a better doctor for my patients and my community.