Montefiore Health System Donations
Samuel Sigal, MD, is empowering the Bronx's West African population through education about hepatitis B. This growing community of over 120,000 residents is at increased risk for infection due to the disease's endemic nature in West Africa. Dr. Sigal, a hepatologist and adult liver transplant physician at Montefiore, responded to the increasing need for a tailored approach to hepatitis B education by founding the Montefiore Starfish Program in 2017. Together with his Montefiore colleagues Emmanuel Emeasoba, MD, Nnaemeka Bosah, MD, and Fatima Omarufilo, Dr. Sigal and team now conduct outreach efforts to faith-based organizations on the importance of hepatitis B screening and administer testing free of charge.
Hepatitis B causes considerable morbidity and mortality. The majority of infections in West Africa transmit from mother to baby at birth, though the disease can also pass through intravenous drug use and sexual transmission. "Individuals can prevent all of this through a simple blood test screen and vaccination," says Dr. Sigal, "and for those with active infection, we have effective therapies."
Unfortunately, West Africans in the Bronx face multiple obstacles to care including limited education, HBV-related stigma, low socioeconomic status, concerns about deportation, and the difficulty of language barriers. "Cultural issues are our biggest roadblock," says Dr. Sigal, "but, through the Starfish Program, we're transforming them into our greatest asset."
Since the Starfish Program's inception, Dr. Sigal and his team have held 22 outreach events with 1,632 attendees. Almost all participants (96.8 percent) reported improved understanding of the condition, 80 percent expressed interest in screening, and 95 percent planning on encouraging family and friends to undergo screening.
"Bottom line," says Dr. Sigal, "is that Montefiore cares: for individuals, for families, and for communities. We care for you."
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