Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – that is to have succeeded.”
Leaving the world a bit better is exactly what a group of dedicated individuals, like-minded and passionate about saving lives is determined to accomplish.
The Detroit Cancer Screening Initiative is a Michigan 501c3 non-profit charitable organization that was birthed from the collaborative efforts of concerned Detroit Metropolitan area community members with experience in clinical practice, teaching, and public health.
Among these brilliant contributors are Nzube Ekpunobi, MD, Chief Medical Resident at Huron Valley Sinai Hospital, Detroit Medical Center, John Barnwell, MD, Chief of Surgery at Sinai Grace Hospital, Detroit Medical Center, and Tammi Pouget, RN, Oncology Nurse Navigator at the Charach Cancer Treatment Center at DMC Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital. All three serve on the DCSI Board alongside several other physicians, Registered Nurses, and concerned community members.
Their concern being the prevalence of lung and colon cancers in the community, as well as recognizing the life-saving potential of early diagnosis and intervention, these dedicated DCSI board members collaborate to promote individual cancer screening and prevention strategies, especially in at-risk, under-served populations of Detroit and Southeastern Michigan.
Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in the United States, killing more men each year than colon and prostate cancers combined. More women die of lung cancer yearly than from breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers combined. And in Southeast Michigan, the Black inner city population has a higher incidence of lung cancer than any other racial or ethnic groups, as well as higher death rates from the disease.
In addition to the problem of statistically higher lung cancer incidences and death rates in the inner city, according to Dr. Barnwell, access to care is critical specifically in the city of Detroit, and is becoming increasingly more difficult, especially with the recent announcement of the planned October 1st closure of Sinai Grace Hospital’s Cancer Center. This leaves only two major cancer centers in Northwest Detroit – Henry Ford and Karmanos Cancer Institutes.
“Lung cancer is the number one killer of cancer patients, and since smoking is still very prevalent in the community, we are going to be in dire need of adequate screening programs able to allow easy accessibility for patients.” Dr. Barnwell
Zu Ekpunobi, MD passionately adds,“Healthcare disparities are particularly magnified in Detroit. It is here that health care literacy is among the lowest in the nation, continuity of care is often interrupted by lack of access to resources and transportation. Environmental exposure to air pollution, harmful gases and contaminated water places the people of Detroit at high risk of illness. That’s why it’s crucial we focus resources and time on this area.”
Lung cancer does not usually present with symptoms that someone may notice immediately, so screening is crucial for former and current smokers. Detecting the cancer in its earliest stages affords the patient an opportunity for curative measures to be taken before the disease advances.
Community health fairs and grass roots outreach opportunities including local blood drives, and the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity meeting, are only a few of the preliminary initiatives that DCSI champions, with the assistance of local leaders and community healthcare professionals. The goal being educating the Southeast Michigan community, these activities are designed to encourage patients and care givers to work with their primary care physicians to follow current guidelines regarding cancer screening, and direct them to facilities where such screening is available.
Pouget’s role as a Nurse Navigator at Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital is to educate the patient and empower them with information regarding their disease process once they have been diagnosed. She is a committed board member determined to see this lung cancer screening increased in Southeast Michigan, and adds, “Our lung cancer program at Huron Valley has increased lung cancer screening by over 50% in the past year. We are diagnosing lung cancer at early stages because of this, and our goal is to be able to diagnose lung cancer when it is curable.”
“The approach is very straightforward,” according to Dr. Barnwell. “Once patients are screened and meet criteria, if cancer is found, that’s where the navigation process begins.”
After receiving the initial cancer diagnosis, Pouget steps in to educate patients, empower them with information regarding their cancer treatment, and to facilitate all aspects of coordinating their care. Pouget adds, “Walking alongside patients step-by-step while navigating their care immediately following an overwhelming diagnosis has been the most fulfilling role of my nursing career.”
Dr. Barnwell echoes the importance of both appropriate cancer screening programs, as well as Nurse Pouget’s role by stressing the importance of correctly navigating cancer patients in the City of Detroit, especially those who do not have transportation means or access, and adds, “The people in the community of Southeast Michigan at highest risk for developing cancers are going to benefit tremendously from programs like the DCSI.” Dr. Barnwell also adds that he is excited about the future, knowing that the DCIS’s aim is to approach the most common killer first (lung cancer), and gain momentum from there, eventually focusing on other cancers in the same way.
Members who serve on the DCSI board are committed to encouraging continued education regarding the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer, and provide lecture opportunities for healthcare professionals. Primary care physicians are able to remain up-to-date regarding advances in lung cancer education with lectures on artificial intelligence in lung cancer diagnosis, as well as the roles of chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiation therapy – just a few of the educational lecture topics planned for the near future. These will also eventually be available on the DCSI YouTube Channel, as well as on the organization’s official website.
For more information about the Detroit Cancer Screening Initiative, visit https:// detroitcancerscreen.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 313-300-2618.