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Katz School of Medicine Faculty and Students Team up with Temple Health and Fox Chase Cancer Center to Win Award for Colon Cancer Awareness Campaign

The coordinated campaign focused on community engagement, education and awareness for the North Philly Community

News November 10, 2023

The Temple Health team displays home colorectal cancer screening test kitsTemple Health has recently been recognized by the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) with the 2023 Service Award for Colorectal Cancer Outreach, Prevention & Year-Round Excellence (SCOPY) for contributing to the coordinated health campaign against colon cancer. Temple Health's campaign, the Philly Colon Crusade, was awarded the "Best Coordinated Awareness Campaign by a Health System" title, making it one of the 17 recipients of the award.

The award recognizes the achievements of ACThe Temple Health team displays their SCOPY service awardG members in their community engagement, education, and awareness efforts for colorectal cancer prevention, honoring campaigns that demonstrate outstanding creativity and commitment to spreading awareness about the importance of colorectal cancer screening and prevention. “We were elated to learn that we won the SCOPY award. Colorectal cancer cases in young adults (less than 50 years) are on the rise and it is through initiatives like ours that we can help reduce the incidence rate of colorectal cancer,” said Ana M. Gamero, PhD, FCPP, Associate Professor, Medical Genetics and Molecular Biochemistry.

The campaign was conceptualized by Dr. Gamero, though she notes it “took a village” to bring it to fruition. Her Co-Chairs, Jessica Briscoe, MD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine, Section of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, and Evelyn Gonzalez, MA, Senior Director, Community Outreach, Fox Chase Cancer Center assisted in planning the project. 

They led a team that collectively executed the program which included several members from the Gastroenterology and Oncology Departments and The Office of Patient Experience at Temple University Hospital, the Lewis Katz School of Medicine, and Fox Chase. Dr. Gamero notes the assistance and participation from constituents throughout the campaign.  “This campaign involved a lot of coordination among our three institutions. We had several individuals contributing to each important element,” said Gamero.

Dr. Gamero paved the way for this campaign. As a part of her participation in the highly competitive TRANSFORM program for Mid-Career Minority Faculty sponsored by the AAMC and NIH, she developed the “Reducing Colon Cancer Burden in North Philadelphia Through Education and Prevention” campaign as her institutional project. This presented her an opportunity to elevate her leadership and visibility within the Lewis Katz School of Medicine, including connecting to the school's strategic plan and mission to improve health through innovation in medical education and emerging trends in healthcare delivery.

The institutional project also supported her vision to increase awareness of early detection of colorectal cancer in the North Philadelphia community. She found it of great importance to personally spread the message, “In my role as a colon cancer biologist, I felt the message had to be disseminated strongly to our North Philadelphia Community. African Americans and Latinos/Hispanics are two racial/ethnic populations that face cancer health disparities and are commonly diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The number of cases is rising among individuals younger than 50,” said Dr. Gamero. 

Dr. Gamero’s motivation for this campaign stemmed from a combination of the leadership project, her dedication and the loss of multiple family members to the disease. “What inspired me to organize this event is that I have lost family members to colorectal cancer. Had they been screened at the right time and not wait until they had experienced symptoms; the disease would have been detected early or been prevented,” said Dr. Gamero.

Temple's patient population is incredibly underserved and has a lot of barriers to accessing preventive care. To help solve this issue, the campaign included several events throughout March, Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Featured was a Diversity Dialogue Series called "Colon Cancer Killed the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman)" and a Facebook Live Q&A on colorectal cancer screening. Other events had resources like colon cancer factsheets in both English and Spanish, an educational walk-through of an inflatable colon and sign-ups for open-access colonoscopies. 

A vital resource of these efforts was free point-of-care fecal immunohistochemical test kit distribution (FIT kits). The kits are an alternative to colonoscopy that can be done at home by collecting a stool sample.  The tests were provided by the Advancing Colorectal Cancer Equity Through Systemic Screening (ACCESS) grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield led by Claire Raab, MD, President and CEO of Temple Faculty Physicians and Rishabh Khatri, MD, Internal Medicine Chief Resident. “We wanted to find a way to make colon cancer screening more accessible, so we applied for a grant that would allow TUH to begin a program of providing fecal immunochemical tests (FIT tests), which can be done easily at home, for Temple patients and surrounding community members,.” said Julia Marino, a fourth-year medical student at the Katz School of Medicine.

Students were passionate and excited to spread awareness “I was inspired by the potential of this project to have a huge impact on many patients' lives. Colon cancer is a disease that benefits greatly from early detection, and there are many effective screening methods. I feel like this project is having and will have a major impact on Temple's patients,” said Marino.

They also played a crucial role in assisting with FIT kits, especially in volunteering their time to educate patients and visitors.  Especially, The Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA) and the Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association (APAMSA) created informational videos about colon cancer screening translated into Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, and Mandarin. 

Moving forward there is a desire to continue the efforts in raising awareness and providing accessible resources for the cause. “The goal is to make this a yearly event, add more programming to the month of March and work with the North Philly Community. The campaign was very successful based on the number of individuals we educated, the number of FIT tests that were distributed and colonoscopies that were scheduled,” said Dr. Gamero.