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Under Secretary Marks 60th Year of USDA Telecommunications at Cooperstown, New York Event

It was great to have Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager on hand for our combined event with Bassett Healthcare on Tuesday. The event highlighted the 60th anniversary of our Telecommunications Program and Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Amy, a breast cancer survivor, spoke to the crowd about the importance of breast cancer screenings and early detection, which is crucial to curing the disease. Her remarks about being the mother of two boys, as well as a wife, daughter and sister were truly moving. I’m proud that my agency has made such a positive contribution to women’s health in this very rural part of our state.

Our event started in Bassett’s auditorium and included a tour of a mobile mammography unit and the “green” room, where radiologists review the digital mammography images. The mobile mammography unit, also called the cancer coach, the digital imaging x-ray equipment, and the broadband network that supports the system were purchased with the help of a $500,000 Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant that Bassett received in October 2006.  The broadband network links the main site in Cooperstown to three remote sites and the mobile unit. The system enables digital images to be shared instantly with oncology specialists in Cooperstown, enabling these experts to consult with patients and other health care providers in real time. The system, through its remote sites and mobile unit, has also improved access to mammography screenings for women living in Bassett’s very rural 8,000-square-mile service area. The 2006 grant was the second telemedicine grant Bassett received from Rural Development. The hospital received a grant of $494,755 when the program started in 1993. Since that time, the Distance Learning and Telemedicine program has provided 37 grants worth more than $12.2 million to 24 New York organizations.

The Telecommunications Program has invested more than $212 million in rural New York since its first loan to the Pattersonville Telephone Company of Rotterdam Junction on November 8, 1950. This vast majority of the funding has been provided through telecommunications and broadband loans, with smaller amounts provided through digital television and weather radio grant.

A $500,000 Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant helped purchase Bassett Healthcare's mobile cancer coach. The coach can provide breast cancer screenings in remote areas and share the digital mammography images instantly with specialists at Bassett's main facility in Cooperstown.
A $500,000 Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant helped purchase Bassett Healthcare’s mobile cancer coach. The coach can provide breast cancer screenings in remote areas and share the digital mammography images instantly with specialists at Bassett’s main facility in Cooperstown.

–By Jill Harvey, New York State Director, USDA Rural Development

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