Empowering Communities: UF Health Proton Therapy Institute’s Impactful Outreach in 2023
2023 was a busy year for UF Health Proton Therapy Institute, including a dedication to grassroots community outreach. Creating awareness and education on proton therapy’s potential benefits for individuals diagnosed with cancer is one of the goals of the Institute. Here is a glimpse into the Institute’s impactful participation in over 40 events in 2023:
Community Service Organizations – Giving back to the community is important to many civic-minded organizations across Florida. We had the opportunity to speak with the Altrusa Club of Ocala, Altrusa Club of Lake County, Altrusa International District Three Virtual Club, Southside Business Men’s Club, Rotary Club of South Jacksonville, Rotary Club of San Jose and the Rotary Club of Naples. Behind the scenes tours were also offered for the Kiwanis Club of Historic St. Augustine and the Kiwanis Club of Deercreek. In addition, the Jewish Community Alliance of Jacksonville’s J Institute brought their members for a presentation and tour of the proton treatment gantries. At many of these community presentations, proton ambassadors (past patients) came to share their personal cancer journeys and experience while receiving proton therapy radiation.
Local Military Organizations – We were honored to be guests for several local military organizations, including the Military Officers Association of America’s Ancient City Chapter and American Legion clubs. At the American Legion Post 197 in Jacksonville, we discussed the importance of prostate cancer screenings for Black men. There, we were joined by a proton ambassador and a member of the COMPPARE clinical trial’s Minority Engagement Group to discuss ways to spread the word about cancer screenings and how proton therapy can provide a higher quality of life during and after prostate cancer treatment.
Education for Older Adults – We were proud to participate in several events for older adults in the community including the Cecil Pines Retirement Community annual health fair and the Nassau County Council on Aging’s 9th annual senior expo and health fair. In addition, we had an engaging discussion with members of the PrimeTime Institute at the Eldercare of Alachua County program. A breast cancer survivor and proton ambassador from Gainesville joined us to share her personal experience with proton therapy and the research she did to decide on the best treatment for her cancer care.
Cancer Education Conference – The Institute and two proton alumni participated in the Prostate Cancer ABCs conference for over 300 men and their family members in The Villages this past fall. Dr. Curtis Bryant was in attendance and provided education on the radiation treatment options panel discussion with fellow radiation oncologists in Florida.
Cancer Support Groups – We provide educational presentations and Q&A sessions to cancer support groups across Florida as well. Most recently, we had the opportunity to speak at the Breast Cancer Support Group of St. Augustine at the UF Health St. Johns hospital.
Student Education Programs – Helping increase the awareness of advances in medical care and technology, as well as opportunities for careers in healthcare are crucial to preparing the younger generations for their future. We spent a day presenting to the Beachside High School Biomedical Science program students in St. Johns County. In addition, we hosted students from Keiser University’s Biomedical Science program and local high schools for tours of the Institute and a career opportunity presentation.
Cancer Navigation Info Sessions – We joined UF Health Jacksonville’s oncology departments to provide education to the community about cancer services, cancer screening recommendations, healthy lifestyle tips and local support resources available for cancer patients and their families. These navigation sessions also included the opportunity to receive free breast cancer screenings.
Making Strides Against Breast Cancer – UF Health Proton Therapy Institute joined an energized group of employees and patients from UF Health Jacksonville at the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in downtown Jacksonville this fall. Thousands of people showed up to support family and friends affected by breast cancer, and the Institute shared info about the role of proton therapy in treating breast cancer.
Riverside Arts Market’s Family Health & Fitness Day – We provided community education surrounding cancer prevention, cancer therapies and community healthcare resources at The Orange Scavenger Hunt which provided a fun way for arts market attendees to focus on their health and fitness. Over 215 people were served and impacted by this event!
Church Groups – Past patients also known as proton ambassadors, often invite us out to their social and civic groups. This past fall we had the opportunity to meet with members of the First Baptist Church of Palm Coast for the start of their monthly community health program.
Employee Health Fairs & Business Expos – We participated in eight events for local Northeast Florida businesses, providing information to employees about the cancer care resources, including proton therapy, that are available as a part of their health and wellness benefits. One huge event was the JAX Chamber Business Expo to spread the word to local businesses, to help improve the health and wellness options available to employees in the area.
UF Health Proton Therapy Institute’s commitment to community outreach reflects a dedication to empowering individuals with knowledge and support in their cancer journey.