Davis Blanton was 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.”
That experience inspired him to return to his native North Carolina and enter medical school so that he could be part of the solution. And that’s why, on March 11, he performed a dozen colonoscopies on patients in underserved Northern Colorado communities who have no health insurance. 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 skill – to bring attention to National Colorectal Cancer Awareness month in March.
Blanton, who came to Fort Collins in 2018 and serves on the faculty in the residency program at the Family Medicine Center, 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, so Blanton turned to the nonprofit CCC for assistance.
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 doctors, nurses and other support personnel needed.
“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 (SCFC) happily agreed to Blanton’s request for use of the necessary facilities. Dr. Julio Salimbeni served as an anesthesiologist, and Summit Pathology in Loveland is donating its services to review findings.
As for Blanton, he relished the challenge. His previous high for colonoscopies in a single day was eight, but he successfully handled doing 12, finding and removing 25 polyps. The married father of a 2-year-old son (with another child on the way) couldn’t imagine a better way to share his talent and passion for helping others.
“The people with the Colorectal Task Force have been trying to put something like this together for years, and it’s finally happened,” he said. “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.
“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.”