COOS BAY – Bay Area Hospital has conferred its highest employee honor on a longtime mammography technologist and women’s health activist.

Martha Blochlinger has performed X-ray and mammography exams for South Coast residents for more than 45 years. At 72, she still works one day a week at the hospital’s Women’s Imaging Center, often serving loyal patients who ask for her by name.

She was honored by the hospital with its “Gold Star” award, given each year to one or more employees who excel in both job performance and community service.

“She’s been a servant to the community for many years,” said Doug Gauntz, the hospital’s director of medical imaging.
Blochlinger is involved in Relay For Life and the Coos County Women’s Health Coalition, and she supports the Women’s Safety and Resource Center. Breast cancer awareness is her particular passion – with an emphasis on routine mammogram screening.

“We know it saves lives,” Blochlinger said. “That’s just a given.”

Blochlinger served as Peace Corps volunteer in the 1960s, performing X-ray exams in Africa. Returning to the United States, she worked in Colorado before applying for a job at McCowan Laboratory in Coos Bay. She worked there until 1989, when she moved to South Coast Radiology, which became part of Bay Area Hospital in 2009. She has worked exclusively in mammography since 2000.

“I just think it’s a great honor to work in my 70s,” she said. “I still feel like I’m enjoying it a lot.”

Gauntz said Blochlinger is beloved by her patients as well as her co-workers.

Blochlinger remembers when breast cancer wasn’t discussed in polite company. Because of the stigma, women with the disease sometimes didn’t seek medical care until their tumors were advanced.

Nowadays, thanks to improved awareness and regular exams, she and her co-workers at the Women’s Imaging Center can discover tiny lumps in time for early treatment.

Along with improved awareness, Blochlinger has seen huge advances in X-ray technology and mammograms. She remembers developing X-ray film by hand-dipping it in vats of chemicals, then hanging it up to dry.

Automatic processors ended that chore long ago, but Blochlinger said the biggest improvement was the arrival of digital mammography five years ago. No film means no time spent developing the images.

Though Blochlinger could have retired when the hospital made the switch, she eagerly learned the new technology.

“You don’t want to be left behind,” she said.

That’s good news for her longtime patients.

“They come in and they say, ‘Oh, you are still working!’”

Blochlinger returns the warm feelings.

“I do love my patients,” she said.

About Mammography at Bay Area Hospital

  • About 40,000 U.S. women die of breast cancer each year. It is the second-deadliest cancer among American women, exceeded only by lung cancer.
  • For women who are at average risk of breast cancer, the American College of Radiology recommends annual mammograms starting at age 40.
  • Bay Area Hospital recommends consulting with your primary care provider about mammograms.  The hospital requires a referral from a health-care provider before conducting a mammogram.
  • A screening mammogram takes about 20 minutes.
  • Mammography at Bay Area Hospital and the Women’s Imaging Center is accredited by the American College of Radiology.
  • The hospital conducted almost 7,400 mammograms last year.

Media Advisory

To schedule an interview with Martha Blochlinger, contact Barbara Bauder at 541-269-8543, or email Blochlinger prefers a Friday or Monday interview.

Doug Gauntz may be reached at 541-267-8111, ext. 8070.

National Cancer Survivors Day is Sunday, June 1.  Relay For Life of Coos Bay/North Bend will take place June 21-22.