On Saturday, April 15, 2006, 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 over 7,000 American men and women each year. Dr. Khadine Alston, '06, the lead organizer, explained 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 their own walks at dental schools across the United States. "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.
The walk's organizational cosponsors included The Oral Cancer Foundation, NYU College of Dentistry, the Oral Cancer Consortium of New York and New Jersey, the Yul Brynner Head and Neck Cancer Foundation and ABC 7, which promoted the event in advance by interviewing two of the SNDA student organizers on ABC 7 the morning of the walk and also providing live coverage of the event. Corporate and individual cosponsors included Colgate, Dr. Eric Studley and Associates, Dean Michael C. Alfano, Associate Dean Stuart M. Hirsch. Oral CDx, ViziLite Plus, SPOHNC, LED Dental Inc., Smile Savers Pedo LLC, CulinArt and Jet Blue Airways, which donated prizes of two tickets valued at over $1,000 each. Kudos to Class of 2009 students Aleksandr Baron, Dmitry Baron and Stacy Wolf for successfully soliciting the tickets.
In addition to Khadine Alston, the Oral Cancer 2006 Walk Committee consisted of Margaret Funny, '06. Jocelyn Jeffries, '07, Jasmine Nicolas, BS in Dental Hygiene Program Class of 2006, and Dr. Dionne Finlay, Advanced Education Program
in Pediatric Dentistry, '06. The students received guidance and support from their faculty mentor,
Dr. Ross Kerr, Clinical Associate Professor of Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology, Radiology & Medicine and Chair of the Oral Cancer Consortium; Mr. Brian Hill, Founder and Executive Director of The Oral Cancer Foundation; Dr. Evelyn Nelson, Assistant Professor of Cariology and Comprehensive Care; Assistant Dean for Development and Alumni Affairs Rita Startup; Mrs. Constance Turner, Administrator of the Smiling Faces, Going Places Mobile Dental Care Program, and Senior Director for Communications and Public Affairs Elyse Bloom.
The Oral Cancer 2006 Walk Committee wishes to express special thanks to the following individuals and organizations: Dr. Scott Benjamin, Barbara Boland, Joanne Castaneda, Dr. Gerald Deas,
Dr. Elise Eisenberg, Darlene Hart, Marcus Johnson, Carmelita Maurentt, former Assistant Dean Novella Jones, Lauren Meyers, Elizabeth Powell, Alicia Samuels, Justin Seaman, Rameko Tompkins, Brendan Ward, Kevin Corbett and the NY Giants Football Team, Khalfani Walker and the SNDA Chapter at UMDNJ Dental School, Marvin Baptiste and the SNDA Chapter at Columbia University School of Dental and Oral Surgery, the NYU Chapters of SADHA and the South Asian Student Dental Association, the Class of 2009 Community Service Committee, and the 2005-2006 NYU Oral Medicine Honors Students. Planning is underway for the 2007 Oral Cancer Walk.