Four the past two summers, people in the Boston area have become accustomed to seeing a 40-foot-long lavender and white RV traveling the roads. This colorful van is the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Blum Family Resource Center Van (Blum Van), a rolling classroom and skin cancer check center.
Showing up at events and festivals such as the Mission Hill Community Fair and the Health Fair at Waltham High School, the Blum Van promotes a Skin Cancer Awareness Program that spreads the message of skin damage and cancers caused by the sun. As part of the program, the Blum Van offers free skin checks performed by dermatologists from Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
The Blum Van goes one step further by visiting beaches around Boston and on Cape Cod. “It’s the right time and the right moment to think about this,” says Dr. Joe Merola, a Brigham dermatologist who works on the van every summer. “You’re lying out in the sun on the beach. It’s an intervenable moment where we can say, ‘Look, let’s talk about sunscreen and sun protection. Let’s talk about coming to the beach and enjoying the outdoors but doing it safely,’ ” he added.
As part of their efforts, the folks in the Blum Van hand out sunscreen to everyone they meet. Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen has been providing the Blum Van with samples to give away for the past two years.
Located in Boston, Mass., the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) was founded in 1947 to provide cancer patients with the best treatment available today while using cutting-edge research to develop tomorrow’s treatments. Through the Community Benefits office, the Institute is able to reach out to people with little access to medical treatment. Working with city and state health departments, community partners and Boston-based coalitions, DFCI is able to educate and monitor the underserved community in regard to cancer prevention and treatment. The Blum Van is a great resource for teaching people about early detection and prevention of melanoma and other skin cancers.
A second vehicle, the mammography van, is the only one of its kind in Massachusetts. The 39-foot-long vehicle is fully equipped to provide annual breast screenings and health education. Each week, this "rolling clinic" visits neighborhood health centers and other community-based organizations throughout the Boston area offering free mammograms. It screens around 4,000 women each year.
Both vans bring Dana-Farber’s expertise to the community and give underserved populations access to preventive care.
Written by Jo Northup