MRI breast scan funded at Whidbey General Hospital

Ann Merriman stands with the MRI at Whidbey General Hospital. - Photo courtesy of Whidbey General Hospital
Ann Merriman stands with the MRI at Whidbey General Hospital.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Whidbey General Hospital

At the Whidbey General Hospital Foundation fundraising soiree held May 4, James Konopik presented a $20,000 check from Island Thrift to the fundraising campaign to buy a breast MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan system for the hospital. The assembled guests cheered. Foundation president, Bert Speir, accepted the gift, saying, “Island Thrift has been a steadfast partner in the foundation’s efforts to support high- quality health care in our community. They honor us with this generous gift and we honor them for their dedication and service.”

The foundation's board set as their 2013 fundraising goal the purchase of the equipment needed for a comprehensive breast MRI program at the hospital. The campaign was planned as a two-step effort. First, to raise $225,000 for a breast MRI scan system. Second, to raise $95,000 for the equipment to enable the hospital to perform MRI guided biopsies.

“When we started, the board thought I was being overly optimistic setting June 30 as our target date to achieve the scan system goal,” said Laura Blankenship, director of the foundation. “It is a testament to this community’s commitment to women’s health that we reached our first goal at our May 4 event. I am thrilled!”

The featured speaker at the foundation’s fundraising event was Dr. Bruce Porter, a world renowned radiologist who is one of three pioneers in breast MRI. Dr. Porter has owned a home on Whidbey for decades and is permanently relocating here. He volunteered his time and support to the foundation in raising funds for a comprehensive breast MRI program at Whidbey General Hospital.

He said he would love to see Whidbey General become a regional center of excellence in this area. Following his presentation and Island Thrift’s announcement, he challenged guests to make a commitment to the campaign. Leading the way with a check of his own, event guests contributed $10,000, which kicked off the second stage of the fundraising campaign for the breast MRI biopsy equipment.

The MRI scan and biopsy systems will complement the hospital’s recently purchased $1 million, state-of-the-art MRI. Dr. Porter told the guests that the hospital purchased the best MRI available for adding breast imaging. Breast MRI scanning is a 45-minute, non-invasive imaging technique that uses no compression, x-rays, or radiation. It is used in addition to a mammogram, ultrasound or biopsy; not as a replacement. Porter said the MRI image is better than mammography or ultrasound for looking at some breast lumps. "Although breast biopsy remains the best diagnostic tool to distinguish between benign and malignant areas, breast MRI is highly effective at finding invasive breast cancer, imaging around breast implants, detecting the possible spread of cancer beyond the primary tumor, and providing information on tumors’ response to treatment," he said. "It is the essential pre-surgery imaging study because it gives the most precise evaluation of the extent of the disease in the breast and surrounding tissue.

"MRI-guided breast biopsy has a number of tangible benefits for the patient," he added, saying they cost less than a surgical biopsy, can be completed in less than an hour and have few complications.

When both the breast MRI scan and biopsy equipment is in place women will no longer have to wait for off-island referrals to get the answers they and their doctors need. People wishing to support the foundation’s effort to ensure women with cancer or at high-risk of cancer have the best diagnostic tools available have two giving options.

Send a check to the foundation specifying that you wish to dedicate your gift to the Breast MRI Program: WGHF, PO Box 641, Coupeville WA 98239. Or contribute online by clicking the "Donate Now" button at


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