In an effort to spotlight the importance of providing colon screenings to all, Dr. Davis Blanton of UCHealth Family Medicine Center partnered with Surgery Center of Fort Collins to host a day-long event to perform colonoscopies on patients from underserved Northern Colorado communities who do not have health insurance. The event took place on March 11, during National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

“The people with the Colorectal Task Force have been trying to put something like this together for years, and it finally happened,” said Blanton. “We would love to do this every year, and then create a model to do it around the state. There’s a huge need for programs like this around the state and across the country.”

Blanton, who came to Fort Collins in 2018, recently joined the Colorado Cancer Coalition (CCC) Colorectal Task Force and immediately became interested in putting together a one-day event that would provide needed colonoscopies to under- or uninsured patients, free of charge. Others had tried and failed to make similar events happen, but Blanton was able to make it happen with assistance from the nonprofit CCC.

CCC is a statewide, bi-partisan, multidisciplinary coalition providing education, networking, best practice sharing and partnership opportunities for those working in oncology care and support. It is dedicated to supporting cancer prevention, early detection and treatment. Blanton worked with CCC Executive Director, Christi Cahill, and the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment to work out the logistics for the March 11 event and connect Blanton with the personnel needed. The day-long event at the Surgery Center of Fort Collins brought together doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists and pathologists from across the region – all donating their time and skills – to bring attention to National Colorectal Cancer Awareness month in March.

“Our goal is to highlight this as a success story/case study, so more clinics and more physicians around the state will host similar clinics to help meet the needs of underserved Coloradans,” Cahill said, noting that cancer claims the lives of 23 state residents each day. “Other states have

shown success with doing screenings on Saturdays to help reduce barriers and get people in for screening that can’t take time off during the week. We want to show that it’s possible and necessary.”

The Surgery Center of Fort Collins happily agreed to Blanton’s request for use of the necessary facilities. Dr. Julio Salimbeni served as anesthesiologist, and Summit Pathology in Loveland is donating its services to review findings.

Blanton’s motivation to do an event like this came from earlier years, teaching high school chemistry in rural Arkansas when he got an up-close look at how poverty can impact public health.

“My eyes were really opened to what it’s like to live in a well-developed country and how much discrepancy can exist in health care,” Blanton said. “I taught kids who couldn’t go to a doctor because there wasn’t one anywhere near where they lived. And very few of them had insurance anyway. It was truly a sad and eye-opening experience.”

On March 11 at the Surgery Center of Fort Collins day-long event, Blanton performed a dozen colonoscopies on patients in underserved Northern Colorado communities who have no health insurance, finding and removing a total of 25 polyps.

“I so appreciate all of the help from the Surgery Center to make this happen. I couldn’t have done it without them, and a lot of people have benefitted from their generosity.”