New breast health center dedicated to longtime physician

Dr. Steve Parvin stands in front of a plaque featuring his likeness after the OCH Center for Breast Health and Imaging was dedicated in his name on Monday. (Photo by Ryan Phillips, SDN)

SDN Editor

Few people are able to see their name immortalized during their lifetime.

But if you ask those familiar with the career and accomplishments of longtime Starkville physician Dr. Steve Parvin, they will say it was a long time coming.

On Monday afternoon, a plaque featuring Parvin’s likeness was unveiled on the front of the OCH Center for Breast Health and Imaging, which opened its newest location at 102 Doctors Park in July.

The small dedication ceremony came as a surprise to the Navy veteran and longtime doctor, whose vision for what breast health care could be in Oktibbeha County resulted in the original clinic some years ago. 

Parvin’s career in medicine spanned 35 years, from 1977 until his official retirement on Dec. 31, 2011.

“I had no idea (about the dedication),” Parvin said. “I was just kind of shocked ... nobody told me a thing.”

Parvin then turned to his wife, Martha Ruth, and asked if she was aware of the dedication before the plaque was unveiled.

“Maybe a little bit,” she responded.


Before the first incarnation of the breast health center opened roughly two decades ago, it started as a vision in Parvin’s mind.

It would go on to outgrow its former space as the concept began to gain traction.

Along with breast surgeon Dr. Chip Wall and certified family nurse practitioner Danna Brooks, breast surgeon Dr. Travis Methvin proudly carries the torch once held by Parvin at the practice.

Methvin credited Parvin’s foresight as to the shifting direction of the health care field as making the new facility possible, while also praising the administration of the county-owned hospital in providing the necessary support.

“The breast center is his baby,” Methvin said. “He had the idea for it years ago, saw the need for it, saw it was the wave of the future. This was not being done except for in really large cities. We wouldn't have be out here if it wasn’t for him.”

Methvin and those around him pride themselves on being at the forefront of changes in how breast cancer is diagnosed and treated. To that, they also credit the groundwork laid by Parvin.

He then said when he was first brought to the center by Parvin, he was told that breast cancer and treating breast diseases as a whole needed to be a focused process and not fragmented - a problem he said persists in medicine to this day.

“You would be hard pressed to find a facility in Mississippi that has all the equipment in place like we do,” Methvin said. “It would just be hard to find.”

Technology has played a major role in the transformation of how breast cancer is treated and colleagues praise Parvin for being able to see the potential in new medical devices.

In just 20 years, Parvin said, the statistics went from roughly 30 percent of women diagnosed with stage one breast cancer seeing a five-year survival rate, to a current cure rate of 95-97 percent if it is caught in time.

He then attributed this drastic improvement to better technology and heightened awareness of breast cancer and its symptoms.

“The most surprising thing is that women bought into this,” Parvin noted. “That’s the key to this whole situation. If women don’t buy into it, you’re not going to be able to make it. Because back then, women didn’t know they had a problem until they had a lump. They would come in and many times it would be advanced.”

Like Methvin, Parvin also expressed gratitude for the support he has received from the hospital’s administration and Board of Trustees.

“When we first started the breast center it was an expensive endeavor,” Parvin said. “The digital mammography unit was a huge expense and they bought in and supported me and it turns out we were way ahead. They didn’t have a digital unit in Tupelo or Columbus for years.”


Despite recent changes in the hospital’s highest position with the retirement of OCH CEO and Administrator Richard Hilton and the hiring of his replacement Jim Jackson, the efforts at the center have continued to move forward without the slightest interferance.

Jackson may not have worked directly with Parvin, but expressed an awareness of the impact had on local medicine by the longtime physician.

“It certainly is an honor to be able to recognize a man who has devoted so much of his career to advancing women’s health,” Jackson said. “This place is here due to his work and his vision and we’re certainly glad to be able to provide it to the community.”

One of these innovations was shown to those attending the tandem open house at the center on Monday: the Selenia Dimensions Mammography System by Halogic.

According to industry experts, the latest version of the mammography machine is capable of providing 3D images as compared to the 2D images more readily available in the past.

Halogic says the latest technology, which is FDA approved, is proven to detect 20 percent to 65 percent more invasive breast cancers compared to 2D alone, while reducing callbacks by up to 40 percent compared to 2D.

Stephanie Dennis, a mammography tech at the center, is a resident expert on the latest technology and said the patient experience with the new machine is not really different than previous models.

The technology, though, represents a game-changer.

“We get more pictures and we do press the breast, that’s what people don’t like,” she said.
“But this machine, the top moves back and forth, where it didn’t on our other machine.”

The new range of motion allows for tomography, a method of optical imaging by sections.

“It’s taking millimeter slices of your breast, so doctors and radiologists are getting a lot more information,” Dennis said.

Dennis then said the new machine is geared toward improving care for dense breasts and thicker tissues, which is made possible by the 3D imaging.

“We can do 2D and 3D, but most people now are getting 3D,” Dennis said. “Most insurances have caught up with it and are paying for it.”

While burgeoning technologies may provide increased hope for some when breast cancer is caught in its early stages, Dennis said it is still crucial to get a mammogram and perform self-examinations.

Dennis recommended performing a self-examination once a month and having an annual physical exam. Other signs such as a lump, tenderness, nipple discharge and different skin changes, can also be signs.

“There’s a lot of things some people may not notice,” Dennis said. “Some things can be seen on mammograms that are not seen or felt … it’s the best screening tool.”

When considering the new technology, the highly-skilled staff and the new facility, Parvin reflected on his career and beamed with pride at what the future holds not only for breast health care, but for the future of medicine in Oktibbeha County.

“I’m just proud of the hospital,” Parvin said. “It can be done.”