DetecTogether has once again partnered with UMass Memorial Health to improve firefighter well-being. On May 19, Dr. Michael G. Hamrock, a nationally recognized researcher and lecturer on the topic, presented to physicians during a Grand Rounds session.
“Occupational cancer is a critical issue facing the nation’s firefighters. Members of the fire service have a 9% increased risk of developing cancer and a 14% greater risk of dying from cancer than the general public,” says DetecTogether president Tricia Laursen. “Early detection improves the chances of survival. DetecTogether teaches firefighters how to seize the power of early detection with our 3 Steps Detect program.”
The first step of the program focuses on setting benchmarks for health, knowing what’s normal for you, keeping up with regular health screenings and finding healthcare providers who understand firefighters’ unique risks. After delivering 3 Steps Detect to the entire Worcester Fire Department in March 2021, DetecTogether was approached by the firefighters to help connect them with the appropriate primary care physicians and facilitate a skin cancer screening.
UMass Memorial Health stepped in to provide navigation services to fire departments trained by DetecTogether, and in August 2021, the two organizations partnered with Polar Park to offer a free skin cancer screening to firefighters in the park’s DCU Club. Of the 115 firefighters who participated, 3 early-stage cancers were detected and treated. There are an estimated 2,900 firefighters in Central Massachusetts. Having Dr. Hamrock share his expertise with UMass providers is the next step in expanding the number who can sensitively care for these firefighters.
“Providing education and tools to our clinicians can provide earlier detection of cancers in firefighters,” says Andrew Karson, MD, Chief Medical Officer at UMass Memorial Health. “Dr. Hamrock is a champion of early cancer detection, and we welcomed him to our campus to share his expertise with UMass Memorial clinicians.”
Dr. Hamrock was a Boston firefighter for 20 years before graduating from UMass Medical School where he was a classmate of Dr. Eric Dickson, UMass Memorial Health’s President and Chief Executive Officer. Dr. Hamrock now provides primary care to many Massachusetts firefighters at Steward St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Boston and serves as the department physician for the Boston Fire Department. He has worked with many organizations to create innovative health programs for firefighters, including advising DetecTogether on its firefighter education program.
Edward Kelly, President of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and a member of the Boston Fire Department says, “There is no question firefighters’ unique exposures to carcinogens require increased medical attention. Educating physicians about the need for early cancer screenings for firefighters is key to outcomes.”
Dr. Hamrock was also joined by Benjamin Eovaldi, DO, Preventive Medicine Resident, UMass Chan Medical School. Another skin screening event is scheduled for this October at Polar Park.