Dental Hygiene Student Helps Organize Oral Cancer Walk

38 “Superheroes” from the Carrington College Boise campus took part in a very successful walk in Boise in October.

The Boise Oral Cancer Walk is a partnership between Idaho Dental Hygienist Association (IDHA) & oralcancerwalk.org, to raise awareness and promote early detection of the disease. The Boise event was arranged to coincide with the IDHA Annual meeting on October 11.

Oral Cancer GraphicOral Cancer is a disease that is growing steadily and needs a voice. Close to 43,250 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year; it will cause over 8,000 deaths, killing roughly 1 person per hour, 24 hours per day*.

The mission of Oral Cancer Walk organization is to improve total health by increasing public awareness of the risk and prevalence of the disease, and to increase mindfulness among dental professionals of their role in assessing and identifying it.

One of our Dental Hygiene program students, Jessica Mendenhall, was the lead volunteer and onsite organizer of the Boise event. Jessica’s brother, Eric, is an oral cancer survivor, the founder of the oralcancerwalk.org non-profit, and was the guest speaker at the IDHA annual meeting.

Jessica gave us her thoughts on the event, and why it’s so important to her:

“It is a very special cause and one that I do hold very dear to my heart. My brother is a stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma (leading oral cancer) survivor who unfortunately lost half of his face in the fight to survive. He wasn’t a smoker, never chewed and only drank socially. He has a wife and 2 amazing kids who had to learn to cope with his new appearance just as much as he had to.”

What inspired the Carrington “Superhero” theme?

“We chose to do the first of what will become an annual walk dressed as superheroes in the hope that we can all be heroes in the fight to bring awareness of oral cancer, and the importance of early detection.”

 

Where will the proceeds from the walk go?

“The proceeds are being donated to the fight to bring awareness to the growing number of individuals diagnosed with oral cancer each year, to help support current survivors and their families, and to increase education of dental health professionals who are the first line of defense for early detection.”

Why was it important for you to share this with your classmates?

“As future dental care providers, the dental students here at Carrington are those in the front line for early detection; we have the power to save lives! I loved seeing their enthusiasm and dedication to do just that! They all helped us to ‘Kiss Oral Cancer Goodbye’ with their actions.

Warming Up for the Oral Cancer WalkAlthough I was the lead volunteer, and the onsite person for oralcancerwalk.org, it was truly a group effort with the IDHA in hosting this event and the future ones to come. I’d like to thank the school and all of the student/faculty participants whose help made the event possible. To see the student body and faculty come out and show their support in getting this event off the ground was truly touching. For the school to so graciously make a last minute donation in the total amount of $3,000 was astounding!”

30 Carrington students and 8 faculty members joined students from other dental schools and colleges around Idaho in attending the IDHA meeting and the walk, which Jessica, in partnership with the IDHA, intends to make an annual event.

 

*Source: http://oralcancer.org/facts/