When Dr. Don Connell resigned from the radiology department of Bulloch Memorial Hospital to open his own outpatient radiology center in 1991, neither he nor his wife Connie realized just how personally relevant that decision would become.
"Don turned in his resignation on January 1, and three weeks later I was told by Dr. Steve White that I had breast cancer," Connie Connell said. "Just after finishing six months of chemotherapy, we opened the Statesboro Imaging Center."
Thursday, the Connie Connell Women's Center at Statesboro Imaging will officially open with a special ceremony and celebration.
"When I found out that Miss Connie was a 20-year survivor of breast cancer and a crusader for early detection, I felt that it was important to recognize that milestone," said Tara Jeffers, director of operations at Statesboro Imaging. "With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this seemed like the right time to do that."
Statesboro Imaging's Women's Center was recognized as a Breast Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology.
"I am not aware of another facility in Georgia with this designation outside of the Atlanta area," Connie Connell said. "In the center, we have the ability to do computer assisted mammography diagnostics, stereotactic breast biopsies, breast ultrasounds, and bone density scanning."
In addition to the services that are provided, the Connells have created an atmosphere of compassion and privacy in the center itself.
"We do around 5,000 mammograms a year, roughly 20 a day," Don Connell said. "We generally discover about 50 new cancers a year. That is not easy news to deliver. We have realized over the years that we need a place that is really private, that caters to the needs of women. It was a natural spinoff from the original concept of Statesboro Imaging which was to provide a more efficient way to do outpatient imaging."
The 2,000-square-foot center has its own waiting area with a warm atmosphere that includes cookies and coffee, and a rose that is given to each patient when she leaves.
"I think it is so important that women get breast exams, because the earlier you catch it, the better the survival rate," Connie Connell said. "I know there is anxiety about getting a mammogram. Women are afraid of what might be found, but you can't stick your head in the ground. You have got to come and find out what is going on, make sure that you are OK. We really try and relieve as much of that anxiety as we possibly can."
One of the ways that is done is by giving patients their results while they are there.
"What is so nice about the mammography center is that Dr. Connell will read the image before the patient leaves, and if that person needs additional views, they can be done right then," said Dr. Carla Branch. "Getting results immediately relieves some of the anxiety that patients are feeling. It alleviates a lot of stress. For the past 18 years, I have referred the majority of my patients to Statesboro Imaging."
Don Connell said he believes that breast cancer awareness has surged in the last several years.
"I really think that the Susan G. Komen Foundation had a great deal to do with that," he said. "They really got the ball rolling, and got all of America charged up. It has been going that way for a number of years now. I think this level of awareness is wonderful. And, I really hope that the message has gotten out that you don't need a physician referral for a screening mammogram. You can make an appointment at any time, and have one done."
Since coming to Statesboro in 1982, Connell has provided leadership and innovation in the provision of imaging services and new technologies.
In 1995, Statesboro Imaging Center became the first to offer stereotactic breast biopsy. In 1997, the Center offered the first permanent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner to the area. Connell introduced the first computer-assisted diagnostic mammography computer, as well as the first gamma positron emission tomography (PET) scanner in 2001.
In 2004, Connell created the Statesboro Spine Center. In 2005, the Imaging Center introduced the first Opart Ultra MRI, providing area physicians with diagnostic capabilities previously available only at the largest medical centers.
"Living in Statesboro has allowed me to build a strong professional life while enjoying family life in a quality community," he said. "I have personally committed myself to the betterment of medicine in Statesboro by offering the most advanced diagnostic modalities in the area."
Currently the Center provides a full-realm of diagnostic and imaging services including traditional X-ray and Ultrasound, CT, MRI, Nuclear Imaging/PET, digital fluoroscopy, mammography, bone density (DEXA) and special procedures including MR Angiography and stereotactic breast biopsy.
The grand opening celebration of The Connie Connell Women's Center is slated for this Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. To learn more about Statesboro Imaging, you can visit their website at www.statesboroimaging.com.