In 1999, head oncology nurse Madeline Harris and education coordinator Rita Foust recognized a need for volunteers in the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center's Breast Health Clinic. Through this clinic's interdisciplinary team approach to breast cancer, patients and their families are able to see specialists in medical, surgical and radiation oncology all at once to determine the best and most effective treatment options.
Jan Bolla, a breast cancer patient herself, agreed to identify and coordinate a volunteer group to serve as hosts for caregivers and patients on clinical days. After identifying the proper volunteers for this services, letters were sent to 89 people telling them about the opportunity. Ms. Bolla named the new group the "Angel Squad" because angels are messengers. She envisioned that these volunteers would give a "message of hope and comfort" to breast cancer patients and their families.
Twenty women trained to become the first Angels in March 2000. Over the years, Angel Squad members have elected officers, adopted bylaws and implemented new services to meet patient needs.
In an effort to provide greater support for patients, the Angels recently began providing care to patients in both the Breast Health Clinic and the Mammography Clinic and assisting in the transition of patients between the two, as needed.
In 2009, the Angel Squad became a part of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. The structure, mission and goals of the Angel Squad remained the same, but as part of this organization, the Angel Squad has been able to significantly improve patient care and to more effectively promote breast cancer awareness in the community.