AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Helping underserved communities… Augusta University Health and the Georgia Cancer Center received a grant to make sure medical care is available to everybody – especially those who might not be getting enough of that care these days. Dr. Martha Tingen joins us with information on how that care is reaching those in greatest need.

Brad Means: Dr. Tingen, thanks for being with us again. We appreciate you.

Dr. Martha Tingen: Oh, I always love to come on your show, Brad. So thank you very much for this invitation.

Brad Means: Absolutely. I wanna talk about the grant that you received and how it’s gonna help serve areas of our community that might not be getting the medical attention that they need and certainly deserve, but let’s take a look at populations in our community and how they are succumbing to, If you will, the Corona virus more than others, especially the African American community studies have shown that they get the coronavirus more than other folks. Why is this?

Dr. Martha Tingen: Well, I think there’s a really good reason. If you look at all the health disparities related to stroke, related to diabetes risk, related to rates of obesity, related to cardiovascular disease, and I could lump all of those into something called chronic illnesses. Anyone that has a chronic illness Brad, is at much greater risk for for getting COVID-19. And many, many people that are even youthful that are greatly obese or morbidly obese are getting COVID-19. That could be a primary risk factor. So there’s great disparities among the African American community with chronic illnesses. And sometime those chronic illnesses are not well controlled. So that makes them much more susceptible. Inflammation in our bodies is a very interesting thing. And when we get COVID-19 of course, we know that it’s a viral infection. So when our body has inflammatory things going on from other diseases or conditions that are not well controlled, it’s a perfect setup for being attacked by an outside host of COVID-19.

Brad Means: Dr. Tingen, by the way thank you, to the good folks at zoom. Apparently they have gotta meeting continue We appreciate that. You’ll see what I mean. When you watch the tape of this, something just popped up on the screen. Let’s take a look at the grant that you’ve received. The grant that will help you address underserved portions of our community, which leads to the question. Have you had time yet to see which parts of our community are underserved? And am I asking the question, right? Is it neighborhoods? Is it parts of the CSRA where you can say, okay, this section doesn’t get the medical care it needs.

Dr. Martha Tingen: Absolutely, So I’m very thrilled that the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation, who we have a wonderful relationship with, and I love to come back again one day and share a new grant We just got for 3.38 million with them to address health disparities related to cancer. But I’ll stick to the COVID-19 today. So I got a quick phone call and they ask if we needed any dollars to address. And they said the most they would award me 20,000. I said, 20,000 And they said, yes. And I said, okay, can I ask for more? They said, you can ask for more, but that’s kind of the limit. So I put together a proposal with double that for about $40,000. And I immediately got on the phone and called several of my great contacts that I work with on a regular basis, collaborators in the community, basically among the African American churches and their leadership, their pastors. And I said, if we had dollars to impact your communities, do you know where the greatest needs are? I said, I’ve done a few stats, but I want your opinion. They immediately said, Oh yeah, Burke County’s in great need, Jefferson County in great need, Warren County, Lincoln County, McDuffie County, even parts of rural Columbia County. And there’s even things perhaps in Richmond County, although Richmond County has been taken care of well related to one major need of COVID. And so this grant addresses all areas of how can we meet needs of people. So the first need that I was very worried about is, a lot of people don’t realize this Brad, but food insecurity, not having food to eat is a very real thing for many, many school systems in rural areas, as well as in Richmond County.

Brad Means: Yeah let me Jump in and ask you this, I mean you’re right that insecurity is a legitimate thing. We’ve covered it here during our newscast and there’s a constant effort to make sure that food gets to those people. So if we’re looking at medical care Dr.Tingen in those rural areas you mentioned, is it a matter of people not having the means to drive into town, to see the doctor? And if so, are your efforts primarily going to be bringing the doctors to them?

Dr. Martha Tingen: So what we’ve tried to do is we have done an educational intervention and we have provided them tangible resources and connected them with resources of how they can get help. And when I say tangible resources, so earlier in talking with Dr. MacArthur, we have provided them over a thousand masks

Brad Means: Wow.

Dr. Martha Tingen: And demonstrated how to properly wear them. We have provided them over a hundred touchless thermometers, so they’re the same type we use before you go to the hospital and work every day to see if you have a fever. We have provided them over 800 sanitizers. We have provided them over a mailer that looks much like this. And that has one of the leaders of our organ, of the area. Who’s the president of the 10th district of all the counties I mentioned. And so we have kind of a three part message and it all relates to medical care. The first thing is protect, protect yourself and others. And we have under the importance of wearing a mask and wearing it properly and six feet. And we have what is six feet? is stretching your arms out all the way. That’s a good measure of six feet. And it has other things about protecting yourself and others. When I think about protecting yourself quickly Brad. If you’re on an airplane and you are gonna be on a crash or something, they say, put your mask on first, so you can help somebody else.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Dr. Martha Tingen: I say in COVID-19 put your own mask on first. And then if you come across somebody that doesn’t have one, they need to get a mask on also.

Brad Means: Have you noticed, some people, whether they’re in served or underserved parts of our community, just don’t trust doctors. And so it’s not that they don’t have access to the care. They just don’t trust y’all and don’t want to go. Have you run into that yet? And if so, how can churches step in and be your go-between and establish that trust?

Dr. Martha Tingen: Well, one of my goals has been, and I don’t take all credit for this. I have an amazing team of individuals on my research team that we work with. And so don’t think this is all Martha Tingen. This is a wonderful team that we’ve assembled over the years. Some of them have been with me for 14 and 15 years. We have developed relationships with the community and they know one major thing, that they know I care about them and they know our team cares about them. And I’m always very proud. And I say this with gratitude and thankfulness. I say, I work for the Georgia Cancer Center at the Medical College of Georgia. They know both of those names, especially the Medical College of Georgia and the Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta university.

Brad Means: Mmh.

– Dr. Martha Tingen: And when people know you are sincere and you care about their health, this is just a quick little blurb on the side, but I was on the phone yesterday with five countries from Africa, with 21 individuals in a virtual meeting with MMDs, PhDs, RNs, medical assistants. We are training them on a program that we implement here, that will be translated into 15 languages there. So and then you know what ? They know that we care about them. We’re developing a collaboration with them, but I want to get back to the three main points of this.

Brad Means: Yes mam, keep an eye on the clock. Dr. Tingen, keep an eye on the clock because our time is starting to run out.

Dr. Martha Tingen: So protect yourself and others. The other is respect guidelines. If you feel sick, do not get in the car and drive down to the Medical College of Georgia or anywhere else at Augusta University. You call your doctor first, Okay? Now, if you can’t breathe and you need medical attention, you call 911 immediately. Clearly don’t misunderstand me. But if you think you have some symptoms of COVID, you need to get in touch with someone to see what your next action should be. And often that’s to be tested. If you ever have shortness of breath and can’t get your breath and you feel very ill, then absolutely seek the medical health. The third is connect, and that means stay informed with what the latest data is. There is so much information out there. So we have put this in a very lay language way. We mailed out over 40,000 of these, to the particular communities and tons of people have called and said, I didn’t not have that stuff. We have the really neat symbol on here where you can see a really cool thing. That’s put out by hip-hop group about washing your hands.

Brad Means: Dr. Tingen, let me jump in and ask you this. Cause that card that you mailed out is incredible. And I hope a lot of people, those 40,000 are studying it closely. Let me ask you real quickly though, We have 45 seconds. When you live in a household with a lot of folks, that’s social distancing, that’s six feet that you illustrated can be tough. How do you social distance within your own household? If there are a lot of members or do you need to since you’re all family.

Dr. Martha Tingen: So this is my philosophy on that. I am very big on the moment you walk in your house, you go wash your hands really well. I’m a little OCD. And so then I do a major sanitizer on my hands. I also wash my face time I get home with something that is antibacterial, antiviral, anything I can.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Dr. Martha Tingen: And so in the house, I don’t social distance from my husband. I will be the first to say that, but we have very specific guidelines of keeping our counter tops clean and all those types of things, because you want the cleanest environment you can have inside your home.

Brad Means: Well that’s So true. And it all does start in the home. Dr. Tingen, you’ve done so much hard work with your team on cancer. Now the Corona virus, thank you for helping this entire community. We appreciate you and we’ll have you back soon.

Dr. Martha Tingen: That’d be great. Thank you so much, Brad, for this opportunity.

Brad Means: Dr. Martha Tingen with the Georgia Cancer Center.