As a medical student in 1997, Dr. Miriam Cremer spent a semester in Arcatao, a small village in northern El Salvador helping to provide basic health care needs to the community. While there, Miriam assisted a woman with an advanced case of invasive cervical cancer. That woman bled to death in her home from a preventable disease; she had never received cervical cancer screening, and during the final stages of her battle with cancer, had no access to pain medication.
This incident prompted Dr. Cremer to conduct a pap smear campaign in which she performed close to 70 pap smears on women living in the village and worked with pathologists in the United States who read the slides for free. As the years went by, Dr. Cremer returned to El Salvador multiple times and helped by providing reproductive health care and cervical cancer screening for thousands of women. With the support of dedicated volunteers, pediatric check-ups and eye care clinics were also made available to the local inhabitants during these medical delegations.
In 2005, Dr. Miriam Cremer incorporated Basic Health International as a charitable organization in the United States, with one mission: to eradicate cervical cancer. Two years later, Basic Health International opened its first office in El Salvador.
Currently, BHI is assisting in clinical trials and programs in El Salvador, Peru, Colombia, and Haiti, with secured funding for additional research sites in Mexico and China.
One of BHI’s proudest achievements is its partnership with the Ministry of Health in El Salvador (MOH) in The Cervical Cancer Prevention in El Salvador (CAPE) program, which consisted of the implementation of a low-cost HPV test and management of women with abnormal screening results. The success of this screen and treat strategy, led the government of El Salvador to adopt this modality into their national guidelines. The plan is to expand the program nationally by 2019, and we hope our approach can be used as a model for other low and middle-income countries.
Due to its innovative research and successful implementation projects, BHI is globally recognized as a leader in the secondary prevention of cervical cancer.