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Monday, March 25 , 2019, 1:56 am | Fair 50º


Sansum, Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics Reach 100 Free Colonoscopies Goal

Virgil Elings pledges funding for 300 additional screenings

Sansum Clinic, in collaboration with Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, has reached its goal of providing 100 free colon cancer screenings. Now the program is about to become one of the largest privately funded, free colon cancer screening programs on record in the country.

A generous gift of $50,000 for 100 screenings from Santa Barbara philanthropist Virgil Elings created a partnership between the two organizations to provide free colonoscopies to people without health insurance. Based on the success of the initial program, Elings has pledged an additional gift of $150,000, for a total of $200,000, to screen 400 Santa Barbara residents — with an overall program goal of 1,000 screenings.

“My gift allows people to have a test they may not otherwise be able to afford,” Elings said. “My colon cancer was discovered from a colonoscopy when I was 67, and that procedure likely saved my life. I wish I would have had the colonoscopy at an earlier age before the cancer had developed. I realized that I should do something to make that available to those who would otherwise not get one.”

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths, and one in 19 people are at risk for developing the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. The number of deaths has been decreasing in recent years as a result of an increased focus on screening and improvements in treatment.

Dr. John Petrini, a gastroenterologist at Sansum Clinic, acknowledges the importance of early screening.

“Colonoscopies allow us to identify and remove any polyps before they become cancerous,” he said. “National guidelines recommend anyone over the age of 50 be screened every 10 years, but 40 percent of men and women in this group have not been screened.”

Patients who meet certain criteria will be referred to the Sansum Clinic gastroenterology department from the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics through the partnership.

“It’s always great to see people in our community recognizing a need and stepping up to fulfill that need,” said Dr. Neil Sullivan, medical director of Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics. “Certainly, this program will provide many Santa Barbara residents access to this life-saving test.

“We’re honored to continue our partnership with Sansum Clinic to provide this much-needed service.”

Click here for more information on the nonprofit Sansum Clinic. To make a donation, contact clinic philanthropy director Dru Hartley at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or call 805.681.7726.

If you are over age 50, do not have health insurance, and would like more information on the free colon cancer screening program, contact the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics at 805.963.1641. Click here for more information on the nonprofit Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics.

— Elizabeth Musson represents Sansum Clinic.

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