Resident Honored as Health Care Hero - Adventist HealthCare

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Media Contact: Tom Grant

Published on April 05, 2007

Rockville Resident Who Teamed with Adventist HealthCare to Fight Colon Cancer Honored as Health Care Hero

Rockville, Md. -John Aravanis, a Rockville resident who joined with Adventist HealthCare and Montgomery County Fire and Rescue to begin a colon cancer screening program for firefighters and rescue workers in memory of his son, has been honored by the Daily Record as one of its 2007 Health Care Heroes.

In March 2004, Aravanis, Adventist HealthCare in Rockville and Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services launched the SCREEN (Sarris Colorectal Examination and Education Needs) program to screen for and educate county firefighters and rescue workers about colorectal cancer, which is cancer of the colon or rectum.

Aravanis’ son, Chris Sarris, a county professional firefighter who worked in Station 31 in Darnestown, succumbed to colorectal cancer in February 2003 at the age of 45, three years after he was diagnosed with the disease.

“We were looking for a way to say thank you and acknowledge the firefighters’ overwhelming support for Chris during this time,” Aravanis said.

Aravanis was honored as a Community Outreach Winner finalist during a March 28 breakfast in Baltimore sponsored by the Daily Record, a business newspaper based in Baltimore that annually honors people statewide for their health-care contributions in the categories of Advancements, Community Outreach, Volunteer, Physician, Nurse and Health Care Professional.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if colorectal cancer is detected and treated early, there is a five-year survival rate of 90 percent.  Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, but less than 40 percent of colorectal cancers are found early because of low screening rates.

Since its inception, Aravanis and Adventist HealthCare Cancer Care Coordinators, Ivy Bazensky and Candice Shoobridge-Moran, have presented the SCREEN outreach program to about 800 firefighters and rescue workers throughout Montgomery County.  SCREEN is also now part of the Recruit Class curriculum for all new career firefighters with plans to present the program to volunteer firefighters. 

“This program is one of the ways Adventist HealthCare is giving back to the community,” said Judy Lichty, director of Health and Wellness for Adventist HealthCare.  “We’re saving lives through raising awareness of the importance of colorectal cancer screenings, and we encourage everyone to be screened at the appropriate age.”

The program provides free screenings through special blood tests for those ages 35 and older and colonoscopies for those ages 40 and older, if not covered by their insurance company.  Most insurance companies only cover colonoscopies for those ages 50 and older.

Adventist HealthCare has supplied about 260 of the specific blood test kits for the program.  Aravanis has also set up a fund through his own donations and from interested individuals to provide free colonoscopies for those who request them.  About a half-dozen, early-stage cancers have been detected through the screenings.

“The program was initially an expression of our family’s gratitude and Chris’ legacy to his fellow firefighters,” Aravanis said. “We could give them the gift of life, to protect them from something we were not prepared to face.”

Aravanis came up with the idea to provide screenings to fire and rescue workers when he was reading a copy of Shady Grove Adventist Hospital’s Health Advisor and saw a listing for colorectal cancer screenings.  He contacted Health and Wellness employees at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital and Washington Adventist Hospital and then worked in conjunction with Bazensky and Shoobridge-Moran and officials from Montgomery County Fire and Rescue to coordinate and launch the SCREEN program.

Washington Adventist Hospital, in Takoma Park, and Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, in Rockville, partner with the Montgomery County Health Department to provide free colorectal cancer screening services to eligible residents.

For more information on colorectal cancer screening, call Ivy Bazensky at 301-315-3147 or Candice Shoobridge-Moran at 301-315-3507.

Adventist HealthCare, an integrated health care delivery organization based in Rockville, Maryland, is one of the largest employers in the state of Maryland.  The mission of Adventist HealthCare is to demonstrate God’s care by improving health of people and communities through a ministry of physical, mental and spiritual healing. Adventist HealthCare includes Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, Washington Adventist Hospital, Potomac Ridge Behavioral Health, Adventist Rehabilitation Hospital of Maryland, Adventist Senior Living Services, Greater Washington Sleep Disorders Centers, Hackettstown Regional Medical Center, Adventist Home Health Services, the Reginald S. Lourie Center for Children and Infants and LifeWork Strategies.



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