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NYU College of Dentistry Students Lead First New York City Oral Cancer Walk

Oral Cancer Walk Group
In April, the NYU chapter of the Student National Dental Association (SNDA) led New York City’s first Oral Cancer Walk, which drew some 300 participants and raised over $20,000 to raise awareness of a disease that kills more than 7,000 American men and women each year. Dr. Khadine Alston, ‘06, the lead organizer, said that in addition to calling attention to major risk factors for oral cancer and the importance of early detection in saving lives, the goal was to motivate fellow dental students across the nation – the future front-line specialists in screening for and detecting the disease at its earliest, most curable stages – to conduct walks in their own communities. “We must send the message,” says Dr. Alston, “that when the disease is detected early, the survival rate is 80 percent.”

The four-mile walk took place in Harlem to underscore the fact that oral cancer disproportionately affects African-American men, who have the highest rates of oral cancer in the nation. Free oral cancer screenings were available along the walk route, and 58 participants took advantage of the free screenings. Prizes were given for the most donations collected and the highest number of sponsors. Barbara Boland, a dental hygienist and oral cancer survivor, topped the list by collecting $5,000 for the cause. All proceeds went to The Oral Cancer Foundation.

Among the event sponsors were the NYU College of Dentistry, the Oral Cancer Consortium of New York and New Jersey, The Oral Cancer Foundation, the Yul Brynner Head and Neck Cancer Foundation and ABC 7, which ran an interview with two of the student organizers on the morning of the walk and also provided live coverage of the event. Corporate sponsors included Jet Blue Airways, CulinArt, Colgate, and other dental industry sponsors.

Said Dr. Ross Kerr, Clinical Associate Professor of Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology, Radiology & Medicine and Chair of the Oral Cancer Consortium “The walk has fostered a movement by future dentists and hygienists to promote early detection and prevention to their patients as routinely as they do regular brushing and flossing. When more and more dentists and hygienists tell their patients to brush, floss, and get screened for oral cancer, all in one sentence, we’ll know we’ve broken through.” Planning for the 2007 New York City Oral Cancer Walk is already underway.

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