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Meet DAP Health Chief Compliance Officer …

In My Life

DAP Health Chief Compliance Officer Dana O’Neal Erwin lives by Maya Angelou’s motto: Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.

Words by Kay Kudukis

 

DAP Health Chief Compliance Officer Dana O’Neal Erwin was born in Punta Gorda, Florida, and raised in Miami and Tallahassee alongside four sisters. Dad was a lobbyist. Mom was a housewife who’d gotten a full nursing scholarship at Tulane but who did not practice in the field post-graduation. Instead, she married and had children. “I always felt like she would have been happier had she had a career,” says Erwin. “I think that’s why I’m a career person.”

Five years older than Erwin, sister Donna was 15 when she turned to drugs, creating great stress for the family. Donna got pregnant and had a daughter, whom their parents adopted. That’s how Erwin came to have four sisters, but she wasn’t around for most of that. At 14, she was sent to a boarding school in Tennessee. That’s where she cleaned the school’s restrooms after classes, made brooms at a broom factory, sold on the floor at a department store, and rang up customers at McDonald’s. “I’ve just always worked,” she says with a smile.

She dreamed of being an attorney. “Girls aren’t lawyers,” claimed Dad. “You will be a nurse, like your mother.” Disappointing, but Erwin admits she did love dissecting stuff in biology. Two years were spent at Southern College in Collegedale, Tennessee. The rest at Walla Walla Community College and Walla Walla University in Washington state, where she married.

 

Neurosurgery, Nursing, and Night Shifts

After graduation, Erwin experienced being a nightshift neurosurgery nurse overwhelmed with tragic accidents. “It’s the most depressing job I’ve ever had in my life,” she laments. “We had an unusual number of new paraplegics and quadriplegics.” Some survivors begged for mortal release post-surgery. Dark stuff.

­“I had no business being the lead nurse fresh out of school,” she continues, “but I was the only RN they had on nightshift on the unit. There were licensed practical nurses (now known as licensed vocational nurses) who worked on that floor for 18 years and knew everything about neurosurgery.” She loved the challenge, but the veterans weren’t thrilled to take orders from a kid just out of college.

After a year and half on that neurosurgery unit, Erwin transferred to the much cheerier labor and delivery department. “When one of the OB-GYNs had a terrible skiing accident and was unable to do surgeries, she became the chief quality officer,” Erwin explains. “That was when quality in health care was becoming ‘a thing.’ She recruited me to help her build the Quality program. So, I worked with her after my labor and delivery shifts.”

Erwin would call in patient reviews to the insurance companies, which led to her being offered a position with Kaiser-Group Health. “They were starting complex case management in their contracted network in Eastern Washington, and asked if I could come assist with a pilot program.” It ticked all of Erwin’s boxes. She accepted, spending a wonderful decade working with a high-functioning and loyal team of nurses.

During that time, Erwin and her husband had three children, then divorced after eight years. “We’re still very good friends,” she says. Not long after, pals set her up with a wheat farmer at a friend’s birthday party. That man had three children too, and they clicked. They married, Brady Bunch-ed it up on his farm for the next 20 years, the eight growing together as a family.

 

Degrees, Data, and DAP Health

By 2015, their nest was empty. The farm was sold, hubby started consulting in Denver and Canada, and Erwin craved a new challenge. Although she’d already furthered her education in health care administration and management, and had been consulting for years herself, she wanted a master’s. Not an overachiever at all, she obtained one in nursing leadership. Through that experience, she found out she excelled at statistics — using data to solve real-world problems, which comes in super handy in compliance and quality management. And no, she’s not a lawyer, but the compliance and risk piece scratches that itch.

Erwin spent five years at a federally qualified health center (FQHC) in Washington state. A friend from the Joint Commission kept calling with consulting opportunities, which led to her spending three years at a large hospital in Idaho, two years at a critical access hospital back in Washington state, and two years in Colorado as chief compliance officer for a national PACE program.

When Erwin was called to join Borrego Health, she politely sent regrets. But they were persistent, and in 2021, she finally acquiesced. She’d barely signed on as their CCO when DAP Health acquired them, offering her their CCO role. She was thrilled.

“I've never worked for an organization that has the mission and philanthropy we have here, and the support we get from the community and the state,” she says enthusiastically. “Thanks to our very active board and CEO, we have such a great reputation. It’s one of the most exciting places I’ve worked.”

Life is full of surprises, both cruel and kind. Sister Donna overdosed at 28, leaving her institutionalized until her death eight years ago. Dad suffered a massive heart attack that resulted in his death at 59. Remembering the past with her remaining sisters has been healing, and although she recently divorced Hubby #2, they, too, remain great chums.

Erwin believes everything that happens is an opportunity to rethink one’s values. “It’s all in how we look at the human race, despite color, gender, whatever,” she says. “We have patients down in Indio who are hardworking, but who don’t have running water or proper housing. Everyone has different challenges, but everyone can greatly benefit from the culture DAP Health has built.”

“In my life, I’ve loved them all.”

– Lennon & McCartney.

Meet DAP Health Chief Operating Officer …

Against All Odds

The average age of a chief operating officer is 51. Corina Velasquez had earned that esteemed title by 36.

Words by Kay Kudukis • Photo by Yohana Moreno

 

Being a medical assistant (MA) wasn’t the dream of Corina Velasquez in grade school. She was into poetry and prose. She was good at it too. Won an award and everything. In high school, that dream morphed into one of law school and a seat on the bench. All that changed with one test.

 

“I dropped out of high school midway through because I got pregnant with my daughter,” Velasquez says. She was 17 when she gave birth. It didn’t take long for her to realize that, domestically, she was in a bad situation. She left the father within two years.

 

“Statistics say I’d still be at my house on government assistance, but I didn’t let my fear of not being good enough stop me,” she says. She returned to her studies, became a certified phlebotomist, and took a job working in-patient at Eisenhower Health.

 

But Velasquez had her sights set on becoming an MA, so it was back to school. After a few internships, she got her first paid MA position at Borrego Health’s Centro Medico Cathedral City, which had previously been a private practice. Velasquez was also able to draw blood in the small, one-doctor clinic, where it was hard enough to get a patient through the door, much less go elsewhere for blood tests.

 

It was a great time in Velasquez’s life. She was 24, had a full-time job in an exciting field, and she’d found love again. They had two daughters, but after 10 years together (three of them married), they divorced. They’re such good co-parents, people think they’re still a couple.

 

The Humble Beginnings

Born in Ventura County, Velasquez completed kindergarten in Coachella after her single mom moved the family of four there, courtesy of a new job. A middle child, she was sandwiched between an older brother and younger sister. Eventually, her mom purchased the mini-mart where she worked full-time, and where Velasquez also worked after school and on weekends. That came in handy when she was transferred back to her old stomping grounds, subbing for the Coachella clinic’s MA, Carmen Ruiz, who now pulls double duty as the clinic manager at both Palm Springs Family Health and Desert Hot Springs Specialty Care. Both are former Borrego Health centers now under DAP Health’s auspices.

 

As Velasquez learned more about federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), she asked her mom to refer mini-mart customers to their clinic, emphasizing their zero-discrimination policy, discounted medications, and sliding scale fees. When Ruiz returned from maternity leave, she discovered that, due to Velasquez’s expert outreach, Coachella had gone from treating six patients a day to routinely more than 30.

 

“I had worked with the company for a couple of years, and it was very different working with Corina,” Ruiz emphasizes. “Very different than working with anyone else. We would just look at each other and I’d say, ‘Did you see what’s going on in the lobby?’ And she’d say, ‘Yeah, I got it.’” Ruiz is referring to drop-in patients and the workload ahead. “Corina knew exactly what I was talking about. She was always going the extra mile, and I was the same way. We made a really good team.”

 

Velasquez agrees. “Carmen and I had this amazing working relationship where we could communicate without even talking. Just boom, boom! It was awesome.”

 

A Born Leader

When Borrego Health graduated from paper to electronic health records (EHR), it chose to conduct training at the small Coachella facility. Trainers came in but didn’t bring step-by-step learning tools.

 

“I created screenshots at the nurses’ station so I could remember, because I knew the instructors weren’t going to be there forever,” Velasquez recalls. Shortly thereafter, she happily accepted a promotion to become the trainer of the new system — for all Borrego Health MAs.

 

Velasquez also began learning about quality and compliance. Soon she was auditing charts, helping with audit tools, and in 2011, was asked to manage a brand-new clinic. She would be stocking, staffing, and problem-solving.

 

She did so well that it was requested that she find her replacement, and do it all over again. Wet, lather, rinse, repeat. Every clinic, from soup to nuts.

 

At the same time, changes were going on at the upper levels of the organization. The VP of operations was promoted to COO, the regional director of operations became VP, and Velasquez applied to be — and was appointed — regional director in 2012, where she stayed until her 2015 promotion to VP of patient access.

 

Entering the C-Suite

Her rise to the C suite came in 2021. With Borrego Health then serving more than 120,500 patients (roughly 463,000 annual visits) throughout Riverside and San Diego counties, being chief operating officer was a big job. It’s an even bigger job now that she serves in that capacity at DAP Health. It’s a role that was previously absent at the organization — one created just for her.

 

“Corina is simply a force to be reckoned with,” says DAP Health CEO David Brinkman. “Her journey is such an inspiring one. She’s a doer whose presence is nonetheless so warm and welcoming. I’m tremendously excited to have her keep doing what she does best for us now that we are one, integrated health care agency.”

 

Here’s an anecdote from her early years, which shows why Velasquez has been so successful: She was working with a provider who had a reputation for being “a little too direct” (as she gently puts it), when he snapped at her in front of a patient.

 

“I went into his office when we were done, shut the door, and said, ‘Let that be the last time that happens. I’m here to work with you. So, let’s make this a good day.’ He just looked at me, then smiled and said, ‘We’re gonna do just fine.’ After that, it was a really good relationship. At the end of the day, everybody wants the same thing. Sometimes, they just need a different map on how to get there.”

 

Now 39, Velasquez can look back and offer advice to other young adults, no matter their situation. “Even when you don’t believe in yourself, be curious enough to ask the questions because that can open so many doors to things that you never thought you’d even be in the right vicinity of.”

 

Before DAP Health’s acquisition of Borrego Health, when things were up in the air, Ruiz one day felt inspired to call Velasquez to say, “I just want to thank you. I know what you’ve done, and what you’re capable of doing. We don’t know exactly what you do for us behind the scenes, but things happen because of you. Good things.”

 

As it turns out, Velasquez has core values — strength, truth, justice, optimism—that she shares with Wonder Woman. Like Velasquez, Wonder Woman has profound healing, telepathy, and supernatural leadership powers. Isn’t it interesting that Wonder Woman and Velasquez have never been seen in the same place at the same time. Make of that what you will.

Meet DAP Health CEO David Brinkman

Once Upon a Time in Iowa: A Profile of DAP Health CEO David Brinkman

In a new, ongoing series, writer Kay Kudukis profiles the executive and senior leaders who have found their mission match at DAP Health.

 

“I’m from Iowa, we don’t know what cool is.” ~ Ashton Kutcher

 

DAP Health CEO David Brinkman is a fifth-generation Iowan who actually is cool, Ashton.

His father was an endocrinologist. Mom was not only a nurse but executive director of a women’s health organization. Involved in the women’s rights movement her entire career, she also served on a committee approving FDA medical devices.

Sundays, she took the three kids to church while Dad visited the forgotten in local nursing homes. That was his church, and he never missed a Sunday. Both parents gave of themselves tirelessly, instilling those values in their brood.

Thirteen-year-old Brinkman didn’t exactly know he was gay, but he was a fashionista — side note: he’s still got it — with a pension for dying his hair colors not found in nature. Dad surmised his son might not survive tiny-town high school. ‘Out’ didn’t exist in Mason City, but surprisingly it did at Shattuck-St. Mary’s Episcopal Boarding School in Faribault, Minnesota, where Brinkman was sent to receive his secondary education. With only eight students to a classroom, you couldn’t hide in the back. Brinkman had a best friend named Megan, whose father was gay and out.

There was also the gay boy across the hall, who’d pester him with “You’re gay, Brinkman. Admit it!” Brinkman never did. Maybe that was confusion, but it was definitely influenced by the sounds of the beatings the other boys gave the gay one. That he never did anything to help that kindred spirit agonized Brinkman for years, until he finally tracked his former classmate down. There was grace and understanding on the other end of the line: “I would have done the same thing.”

 

The Birth of an Activist

The Lewis & Clark College campus in Oregon was a beehive of activism. Brinkman led the student LGBTQ organization for his four years, majoring in sociology and anthropology, minoring in gender studies. He came out to his parents, then promptly had his first panic attack. He felt lost. It was the early nineties. His community was dying. He was afraid for them. And for himself. Sophomore year, he fought for his rights in response to a statewide ballot initiative to outlaw homosexuality. “Run to the front line, son,” his parents suggested. “Do not back away. When whatever happens, happens — you want to be there.”

So, he did, applying at the Cascade AIDS Project for the only job available: condom fairy. Late nights spent at bathhouses distributing condoms and literature had its moments, but didn’t pay the bills. Two other hourly jobs — running a support group at Harry’s Mother, a homeless youth organization, and running another for LGBT kids at the Urban League of Portland, weren’t much help. And sleep? What was that?

Brinkman wanted to stay on the front line at Cascade AIDS, so he took a 40-hour-a-week salaried position: case manager. Every week, two or three clients died. His psyche couldn’t handle this reality, and when he wasn’t working, he was depressed.

He eventually stopped caring about himself altogether. His friend, an undergrad in psychology, recognized the once tireless activist’s darkness. “You can’t do this anymore, David,” she said. “It’s affecting your health. You have to leave.”

Brinkman informed his boss, Susan Stoltenberg, who gave him not a lifeline but, as it turned out, his life’s work. “You’re smart, dedicated, and charming AF,” she said. “You’d be great at fundraising.” She taught him the ropes, took him to benefits at wealthy gay men’s homes, and together they watched the donations come pouring in.

 

Finding His Groove Leading Nonprofits

The next step was to lead the charge, so Brinkman got his MBA at Pepperdine Graziadio Business School in Los Angeles, with an emphasis in ethical business management. He was now armed and ready.

He spent four years as executive director at My Friend’s Place, a nonprofit for homeless kids in L.A., but when the executive director position opened up at what was then known as Desert AIDS Project in Palm Springs, it was as if everything Brinkman had done in his life up until that point had led him to this. Except he almost didn’t get the gig.

It was at his fifth “audition” dinner with the board of directors that a member questioned their responsibility to write personal checks to DAP. Brinkman stated in no uncertain terms that he believed members of the community would only make contributions to the nonprofit if they firmly understood the board was similarly invested — that each of its members had skin in the game. “If you don’t believe in that,” Brinkman told the group, “then I’m not the executive director for you.”

Every board member voted Brinkman in. Except for that skinless square peg, who resigned. That was 17 years ago.

 

Three Marvelous Humans

Through DAP Health, Brinkman has met many a marvelous human, but three get a shout-out here. The first, Marvin Sholl, proclaimed himself Brinkman’s “West Coast dad,” and 12 years ago, over dinner, said, “David! Ruthie and I love you. But we need to tell you…” Long pause for dramatic effect. “There’s another man in our lives.”

Brinkman waited for a punchline that never came. “This man is your husband,” Sholl continued. “You have yet to meet, but for two years, Ruthie and I have been preparing.”

The next evening, Dr. Will Grimm walked into Barry Manilow’s Gift of Love concert at the McCallum Theatre for his blind date with Brinkman, and fairy dust appeared anywhere the good doctor was. It danced from his fingertips, and when he spoke, it came out of his mouth like cartoon music from a saxophone. The men married in 2019. So, there you have Marvelous Human Shout-Out Number Two.

Number Three is a Ugandan physician working for UNAIDS in Rwanda four years ago, when Brinkman was part of a DAP delegation presenting at an international AIDS conference in Kigali. The man goes by Musah Lumumba because to say his real name would be catastrophic for him and for those he loves.

He and Brinkman spoke this past Ramadan, while Lumumba was in the streets serving the hungry. He said something that skyrocketed across the Atlantic ocean and two continents, piercing Brinkman’s core existence. “David,” he said, “the reason you and I are alive today is to address the issues our communities are facing today.”

That, Brinkman says, is the why of it all. “It’s why DAP was founded,” he says. “It’s why Borrego Health was acquired. And it’s why I came into work today.”

Your move, Kutcher!

Dr. Joseph Cerjan Named Permanent Princi …

Dr. Joseph Cerjan Named Permanent Principal Provider at DAP Health's Borrego Medical Clinic  

The bilingual physician, eager to serve patients in Borrego Springs and the surrounding areas, fills a long-vacant role, bringing a sense of permanence and stability.

Words by Daniel Vaillancourt

 

Dr. Joseph Cerjan — a physician with more than 30 years of experience in a variety of settings, who is fluent in both English and Spanish — has been hired to fulfill the long-vacant role of permanent principal medical provider at DAP Health’s Borrego Medical Clinic.

In that capacity, he will oversee disciplines such as family medicine, pediatrics, women’s health (including OB-GYN), behavioral health, and sexual wellness at the center, located at 4343 Yaqui Pass Road in Borrego Springs, California.

“The people in and around Borrego Springs have long needed and deserved a permanent medical provider whom they can grow to trust, admire, and appreciate,” says DAP Health CEO David Brinkman. “Thanks to his deep well of professional expertise and his wide array of real-life experiences, I believe Dr. Cerjan is the perfect physician to help eradicate barriers to care while broadening programs and services. All of us at DAP Health — and every member of the communities we serve in Borrego Springs — are fortunate to have found him.”

It is with great enthusiasm that Dr. Cerjan looks forward to serving at Borrego Medical Clinic. “I don’t really see myself as a seed that’s being planted,” he says. “I’m a tree that’s being grafted. It has to be pruned, branch out, and hopefully produce the fruit — the benefits to everyone — that we’re hoping for. We’re establishing continuity of care for the area’s patients. Expanding some services. It’s going to be a fun challenge. Personally, this might be the seventh or eighth inning for me, but it might be the best part of my game.”

 

About Dr. Joseph Cerjan

Dr. Joseph Cerjan (sir-JAHN) is a seasoned physician with a distinguished career spanning more than three decades. Born in Youngstown, Ohio, he has dedicated his life to providing exemplary medical care and service to communities across the United States and beyond.

He began his academic journey at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, where he pursued a B.A. in biochemistry. During his undergraduate years, he received prestigious honors, including membership in Bucket and Dipper, the freshmen men’s honorary, and Romophos, the sophomore men’s honorary.

Eager to expand his horizons, Dr. Cerjan pursued his medical education at the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara in Guadalajara, Mexico, graduating with distinction in 1981. Following medical school, he completed several postgraduate years, including internship, social service, and externship, further honing his skills and knowledge.

Dr. Cerjan continued his training with a residency at University Hospital, University of Cincinnati, where he served as chief resident in his final year. Board-certified by the American Academy of Family Physicians since 1989, the good doctor has maintained an active and unwavering commitment to excellence in patient care.

Throughout his illustrious career, Dr. Cerjan has held various positions in prestigious medical institutions, including the Share Reese Stealy Medical Group in San Diego, and the Yuma Regional Medical Center in Yuma, Arizona, where he served in the department of emergency medicine for an impressive 26 years.

In addition to his clinical work, Dr. Cerjan has demonstrated a passion for serving underserved populations, including periods as the house physician at the Fresno County Jail and as a physician at California’s Chuckwalla Valley State Prison.

Fluent in both English and Spanish, Dr. Cerjan is dedicated to breaking down language barriers to ensure the highest quality of care for all patients. His commitment to medicine is underscored by his active licensure in Arizona and California, as well as his current ACLS certification. With a wealth of experience and a compassionate approach to patient care, he continues to make a profound impact on the field of medicine, enriching the lives of those he serves.

Dining Out For Life Greater Palm Springs …

Annual Philanthropic Foodie Event Happens Thursday, April 25

 

DAP Health participates in the one-day North American gastronomic fundraiser for the 19th year.

 

 

Dining Out For Life® — the annual, North American foodie fundraising event that has collected more than nearly 100 million dollars for community-based organizations that serve people living with or impacted by HIV since its inception in 1991 — will take place in Palm Springs and across the Coachella Valley on Thursday, April 25, 2024.

Every year since 2005, Greater Palm Springs has participated in the all-day/all-night affair on behalf of DAP Health. And on each of those occasions, locals, snowbirds, and tourists have swelled with pride and come out in droves to raise much-needed funds while enjoying the generosity of participating local restaurants, bars, cafés, and bakeries that donate anywhere from 30 to 110% of their entire day’s and/or evening’s receipts — not just the profits — to the legendary effort.

Thanks to the generous support of participating restaurants, volunteers, and community members, Greater Palm Springs perennially places in the top three successful markets in the country. In 2023, 72 desert establishments participated to raise more than $270,000 — more than San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, and other large urban centers.

With more than 12,000 local supporters expected to dine out for life at breakfast, lunch, happy hour, dinner, and/or late night this year, the 2024 goal is for Dining Out For Life Greater Palm Springs to grab the number one spot.

Eager participants are urged to visit daphealth.org/dofl, make reservations well in advance, and prepare to satisfy their hunger and thirst as many times as possible on April 25 to beat the North American record right here in our own back yard. If their favorite eatery hasn’t yet made its participation public, diners should speak up and urge the powers that be to sign up ASAP.

For the second year in a row, on the night before — from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. — DAP Health will host a Bar Crawl on Arenas Road in Palm Springs that will serve as the official kickoff of DOFLGPS 2024. Drag performer Jackett Knightley, the event’s special ambassador, will “Pied Piper” patrons from bar to bar, where DAP Health volunteers will provide proof of participation by punching each revealer’s Bar Crawl bingo card.  

DOFL National’s website states that each year “more than 50 local HIV service organizations partner with 2,400+ participating restaurants, 4,100+ volunteers, and 300,000+ diners to raise over $4.5 million for people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States and Canada. The best part? All funds raised through a city’s Dining Out For Life event stay in that city to provide help and hope to people living with or impacted by HIV/AIDS.”

“Because we were founded 40 years ago as a response to the AIDS crisis, Dining Out For Life has always been of supreme importance to DAP Health’s staff and patients,” says CEO David Brinkman. “Since our recent tremendous expansion has allowed us to increase our award-winning HIV/AIDS care from three to five of our 25 clinics, this annual event is more important to us than ever.”

To register as a Dining Out For Life in-restaurant volunteer ambassador on April 25 — or to sign on as a participating establishment, please contact Bruce Benning at [email protected] or 760.320.7854.

Participating Restaurants at Press Time

1501 Uptown Gastropub

Aspen Mills Bakery & Café

Barracks Bar

Bongo Johnny’s

Carousel Bakery

Chef Tanya’s Kitchen Palm Desert

Chef Tanya’s Kitchen Palm Springs

Chicken Ranch

Clandestino

Copley’s on Palm Canyon

Cork & Fork

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit

Eight4Nine Restaurant & Lounge

El Mirasol at Los Arboles

El Mirasol Cocina Mexicana

El Patio Palm Springs

Elmer’s

FARM

Gelato Granucci

Grand Central

Heirloom Craft Kitchen

Impala Bar & Grill Nightclub

Johannes

Johnny Costa’s Ristorante

Kaiser Grille

Le Donne Cucina Italiana

Lulu California Bistro

Palm Greens Café

Purple Room

Spencer’s Restaurant at the Mountain

Tac/Quila

The Front Porch

Toucan’s

Townie Bagels

Trio Restaurant

Willie’s Modern Fare

Zin American Bistro

Dining Out For Life Greater Palm Springs 2024 Sponsors at Press Time

Steve Tobin, Johnny Krupa, and The Grace Helen Spearman Charitable Foundation

Media Sponsors

Alpha Media

KESQ ABC News Channel 3

KGAY 106.5 & 92.1, GayDesertGuide.LGBT and 103.1 MeTVfm

NBC Palm Springs

The Chase 2024 $2.3 Million Raised at 30 …

$2.3 Million Raised at 30th Annual The Chase Celebrating DAP Health’s 40th Anniversary

Icon Barry Manilow serenades 2024’s nine joint Community Legacy Award honorees with a custom-made performance.

Words by Daniel Vaillancourt

 

Music and passion were clearly the fashion — and oh, what fashion! — at the 30th Annual Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards, presented by Desert Care Network, which celebrated not only DAP Health’s 40th anniversary but the nine joint recipients of the 2024 Community Legacy Award.

The affair began on the chilly evening of Saturday, March 30 at the Palm Springs Convention Center with warm-hearted philanthropists in a festive mood making their entrance on the Blue Carpet, all of them dressed to thrill. That’s where Chief of Brand Marketing Steven Henke interviewed guests for live segments on NBC Palm Springs’ evening news.

The extravaganza ended a few hours later with legendary hitmaker (and beloved Palm Springs resident) Barry Manilow smiling, taking a bow, and clasping his hands in thanks — not just for the bountiful standing ovation, but for the $2.3 million raised during the course of the night.”

Zing Went the Strings

After perusing (and bidding on) the silent auction items displayed during the generous cocktail hour where uniformed servers passed hors-d’oeuvres and D.J. Bob Scatch spun tunes, more than 1,300 guests were ushered into the ballroom, where, from centerstage, violinist Jennifer “Spags” Spignola provided a vivid accompaniment to their grand entrance and journey to their table. The venue was truly resplendent, with a revolving rainbow of colors continually shining down from above.

Attendees snapped to attention when the program was kickstarted with two introductory videos. The first was a lightning-fast compilation of star-studded images from the 29 previous galas. The second gave an overview of DAP Health’s vast array of programs and services that co-starred Palm Springs Councilmember Grace Elena Garner and her mother, Juanita. Garner’s late uncle, Justin Escobar, was a person living with HIV who was cared for at DAP Health, and Garner’s stepchild recently became one of the organization’s pediatric patients.

Following the clips, DAP Health Board Member and Gala Chair Kevin Bass officially welcomed the crowd. “DAP Health has been at the forefront of translating the lessons learned from the AIDS crisis into comprehensive, equitable health care that upholds the dignity of every individual regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, or health status,” he said. “Our commitment remains unwavering. In fact, we have expanded our HIV services to five locations, with plans to add more. Reflecting on our shared history fills me with immense pride, yet it is our unified vision for the future that truly fuels my optimism. Tonight, let us dare to dream of a tomorrow where comprehensive health care is a birthright for all, brimming with hope, resilience, and boundless opportunities.”

Bon Appétit and Lend Us Your Ears!

Dinner was then served, with attendees ensuring they left time to mingle and network. Soon, the speeches resumed, with DAP Health CEO David Brinkman taking the stage. “If Steve Chase were here tonight, he’d already have rearranged the layout, zhuzhed the flowers, hung art in our new clinics, and probably found himself uncharacteristically speechless by you, by your commitment and passion for improving the health and advancing the human rights of our 100,000 patients. Your presence honors what Steve envisioned: courage to step up, determination to lift up the powerless, and resolve to eradicate discrimination,” he said. “Today, we stand ready to provide the highest standard of care and advance the human rights of the people growing our food, single moms working two jobs, the angels who care for our growing aging population — all critical members of our community who need the care of DAP Health’s orthopedists, gynecologists, neurologists, and acupuncturists. 

“Not to mention people who are trans, who are facing a national epidemic of violence against them, who need the loving and judgement-free care of our physicians, psychologists, and gender-affirming care specialists. The trans community needs every one of us to have their backs right now. I am confident, as we continue to leverage our 25 clinics, that with the support of elected officials, our amazing board, staff, and volunteers, and you, we will achieve equity in health care and equality for all.”

Going Once, Going Twice...

Longtime “The Chase” auctioneer Dale Johannes then appeared, raising $107,000 from such varied packages as a post-show meet & greet with Manilow, travel extravaganzas, and a power system from sponsor Hot Purple Solar.

In one of the most inspiring moments of the evening, DAP Health Chief Operating Officer Corina Velasquez, who began her career in health care more than 20 years ago, and who served in a similar role at Borrego Health, made an entrance with four fellow DAP Health employees.

Together, they represented more than 120 years of service to the organization. In addition to speaking about growing up in the Eastern Coachella Valley as the middle child of a single mom of three who worked two jobs until she purchased the mini market where she moonlighted, Velasquez said, “My colleagues and I show up every day with our health care hero uniforms on — whether they be scrubs, business casual, or hard hats. We may all come from different backgrounds, but trust me when I say more connects than divides us. Health care is a calling, and our commitment to DAP Health’s mission is united and unshakeable. We are here. For one another. And for our patients.”

The group then introduced a poignant video featuring patient LaWanda Manigo, who credits the organization with not only saving her life, but making it infinitely better.

 

Michele Finney and Desert Care Network’s Commitment

When Johannes returned, with surprise celebrity guest (and past The Chase host) Michael Urie in tow, the audience was primed to give. And give they did, raising $783,000 during the “Fund the Need” portion of the evening. It was with this electric excitement in the air that Desert Care Network CEO Michele Finney addressed the room to remind attendees of her organization’s longstanding commitment to DAP Health.

“We have stood beside DAP for four decades. Our collective efforts to meet the health care needs of our communities began in 1984, during the HIV/AIDS crisis. Desert AIDS Project emerged and Desert Regional provided a dedicated floor for AIDS care,” she said, adding that during the last four decades DCN’s gifts to DAP have totaled nearly $8 million. “We made this investment because we see the need in our emergency rooms every day. We see patients with conditions that could have been treated earlier — or even prevented or avoided — if they had better access to primary care and supportive services. It is for that reason and many more that we recently announced our new gift to DAP Health. We are collaborating by supporting DAP Health’s newest affordable housing project — Vista Sunrise 2 — with a $2.5 million-dollar commitment.” Consider the crowd wowed.

Let Him Entertain You

As promised, the speeches were brief and few. Bass returned to introduce his best friend Manilow, who spent the next 75 minutes regaling a surprising number of Fanilows in attendance with such massive hits as “I Write the Songs,” “Mandy,” “Could This Be Magic,” and his encore, “Copacabana,” which he performed with Modern Men: Coachella Valley Men’s Chorus as backup.

In one of the most ingenious twists of the night, between songs, Manilow spoke briefly about each of the nine joint 2024 Community Legacy Award honorees — major donor Mark Adams, entertainer and patient Keisha D., Board Member Dr. Frank Figueroa, Board Chair Patrick Jordan, 100 Women major donor group co-founder Dr. Terri Ketover, Steve Chase business partner Michael Kiner, Partners For Life major donor group founder Andy Linsky, volunteer psychotherapist Tori St. Johns, and project director of Get Tested Coachella Valley HIV prevention campaign Susan Unger — introducing their separate tribute reels, exiting, and returning from the wings in a different sparkly dinner jacket every time.

The Feedback 

The word on the street following the extravaganza was that this was one of the best Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards in recent memory — thanks in large part to producer Debbie Chapman returning to bring back her expert guidance and creativity. Revelers were thankful for having attended.

“We certainly have never raised such a large amount of money at The Chase on behalf of our mission,” says Brinkman. “I left that ballroom with a big smile on my face and my heart full of love and appreciation for the members of our community who believe in our lifesaving work and who choose to support it with all their might. Together, we’ve already started building the next 40 years. Watch us fly!”

NBC Palm Springs will broadcast an edited one-hour special of “The Chase” on Sunday, April 14 at 9:00 a.m. (right after “Meet the Press”).

Thank You with a Capital TY!

The Chase 2024 was made possible through the generous support of presenting sponsor Desert Care Network alongside all sponsors listed below.

Brad and Lynne Toles of Savoury’s Palm Springs, and their kitchen and front-of-house staff, provided the delicious food, beverages, and service.

The Chase 2024 was Proudly Sponsored by:

Supporting Sponsors

Steven Anders

Daniel & Carolyn Caldwell

City of Rancho Mirage

Anthony Colantino & Craig Grantham

Bruce W. Finch & Keith Reimann

Eve E. Fromberg-Edelstein, Esq.

Gilead

Heather James Fine Art

Inland Empire Community Foundation

Interactive Design Corporation

Alan Kaminsky

Drs. Terri & Bart Ketover

Frank Kurland

Living Out

Marsh McLennan Agency

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management

Selene Palm Springs/Dream Hotel & Residence

The Stonewall Group

Trina Turk

Western Wind Foundation

David Zippel and Michael Johnston

 

Benefactor Sponsors

Coachella Valley Health Personnel

Contour Dermatology

Diageo

Heffernan Insurance Brokers

Labcorp

Perry S. McKay

Vaso Bello Celebrations

Patron Sponsors

Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians

Inland Empire Health Plan

Low Income Investment Fund

Cary Lowe and Allen Ames

Palm Springs Disposal Services

Personal Stories Project

Henry Schein

Southern Pacific Construction

The UPS Store Palm Springs

 

Media Sponsors

Alpha Media

CV Independent

Desert Charities News

Gay Desert Guide

GED Magazine

KESQ

Palm Springs Life

Performing Arts Live

The Hollywood Times

The Joey English Radio

The Rage Monthly Magazine

The Standard Magazine

High-Flying Volunteer

                         Star DAP Health volunteer Jim Gonzales and fashion icon Donna Karan.

High-Flying Volunteer

Jim Gonzales has been all over the globe, but there’s no place like DAP Health.

Words by Kent Black

It might be said that Jim Gonzales is used to the thin air of high altitudes. The Raton, New Mexico native (elev. 6680 feet) worked for Frontier and United Airlines as a flight attendant for 37 years, jetting all over the world to favorite destinations such as Barcelona and Sydney. “I much preferred flying to being in an office,” he says from his lovely home near the Parker Palm Springs. “You get on the airplane, do your job, be nice, and then go home.”

When Gonzales retired in 2015, he and his late husband moved to the desert. Having volunteered for his union for the Colorado AIDS Project, he reached out to DAP Health to see what he could do to help. The nonprofit obliged. His first assignment was to help work the Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards, overseeing the silent auction. “I was really nervous as heck about it,” he admits, “but we ended up doing really well.”

Since then, his volunteer portfolio has grown to include duties commensurate with his welcoming and personable disposition. Each January, he donates his time at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

At DAP Health, he helps with fundraising for the organization’s Partners For Life major donor program, its annual Health Equity Walk, and the client Thanksgiving feast. He’s also one of the rotating volunteers who guides the monthly Impact Hour, where guests are led on a behind-the-scenes tour of the DAP Health campus and introduced to its programs and services. “It’s really impressive. Especially when we show them the 61-unit apartment building going up,” he says. “And there’s always a client present to talk about their journey and how they got there.”

Since making Palm Springs his home, Gonzales says, “I have been afforded the opportunity to work with and meet many giving and wonderful people who are also committed to the mission of DAP Health. Helping everyone who has a need … what could be better?”

And, of course, he’s always available for The Chase. Last year, he had the honor of escorting fashion designer and philanthropist Donna Karan when she was honored with DAP Health’s Equity Award. As a seasoned awards escort, what fashion icon does he hope to guide along the red carpet in the future? Perhaps Norma Kamali? “Oh, no,” he says. “I’m hoping for Tom Ford.”

To learn more about how to become a volunteer at DAP Health—at Revivals thrift stores, at special events, or on campus—please click here.

Dining Out For Life All-Stars

Dining Out For Life All-Stars 

DAP Health counts many local restaurants as important allies in its annual drive to help fund comprehensive HIV/AIDS care, but these Top Three take the cake. 

Every year since 2005 (except for 2020 and 2021, when the Covid-19 virus derailed best-laid plans), DAP Health has participated in the annual North America-wide event known as Dining Out For Life (DOFL). Since its inception in 1991, it has earned more than $100 million for community-based HIV/AIDS service organizations throughout the United States and Canada. Despite its relatively small size, Greater Palm Springs comes in number one in earnings per capita annually. Last year, more than $270,000 was raised on behalf of DAP Health. 

The backbone of this event’s success is not only the thousands of local and visiting foodie philanthropists who choose to dine out for a cause morning, noon, and night, but the desert restaurants, bars, cafes, and bakeries who donate varying percentages of their day’s and night’s take.  

We want to take a moment to give a special shout-out to the Top Three of the nearly 75 establishments that helped us rake in that take in 2023, which in turn permitted DAP Health to continue its commitment to providing comprehensive HIV/AIDS care to all those affected in the Coachella Valley and beyond. 

Clandestino 

A proud participant since 2023 (just mere months after it opened), this destination is known both for its flight of margaritas and for its curated menu of Mexican dishes full of finesse and flair. Owned by the extraordinary restaurateurs Liz and Mark Ostoich, it figures prominently in DOFL alongside its sister eateries Tac/Quila and The Front Porch. But Clandestino takes number one all on its own. clandestinopalmsprings.com 

Photo Credit: Clandestino

Lulu California Bistro 

A proud participant since opening its doors in 2011, this gargantuan, wildly popular hangout for both locals and tourists is owned by philanthropist Jerry Keller, whose late wife, Barbara, not only served as the first female chair of DAP Health’s board of directors, but whose name emblazons the main building on the nonprofit’s Sunrise campus: The Barbara Keller LOVE Building. lulupalmsprings.com 

Photo Credit: Lulu's

Spencer’s Restaurant at the Mountain 

A proud participant since 2006, this hotspot is owned by the legendary Harold Matzner, who has personally contributed more than $50 million to local charities since 1995. Most of his devoted clientele is unaware that the place is named after Matzner’s beloved canine companion (who left his side in 2007 at the age of 14), or that Matzner takes not one penny of Spencer’s profits, preferring to plunge it all back into his charitable giving. spencersrestaurant.com 

Photo Credit: Spencer's

Read more about Dining Out For Life 2023 here

Desert Care Network Donates $2.5 Million …

DESERT CARE NETWORK DONATES $2.5 MILLION TO DAP HEALTH IN SUPPORT OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING

The generous gift, part of DAP Health’s Vision Forward campus expansion, will go toward programs and services for residents of the organization’s second on-campus housing complex, Vista Sunrise II, enabling residents to access lifesaving care in their own backyard.

 

Desert Care Network (DCN) continues its longstanding support of DAP Health with a significant $2.5 million contribution toward the nonprofit’s Vision Forward campus expansion campaign and soon-to-be-unveiled affordable housing complex, Vista Sunrise II. The generous gift reflects DCN’s dedication to addressing the needs of the diverse communities both organizations serve. This commitment will help provide equitable housing solutions for individuals facing challenges such as homelessness and chronic illnesses.

“At Desert Care Network, we are deeply committed to improving the health and well-being of all residents in the Coachella Valley,” says Desert Regional Medical Center & Desert Care Network CEO Michele Finney. “Our 40-year partnership with DAP Health, and this donation toward its Palm Springs campus expansion, focus on much-needed affordable housing, and align perfectly with our mission to provide comprehensive care to our most vulnerable residents. To support the health of our entire community, we know we are better together.”

“Thank you, Desert Care Network, for understanding — as we do — that housing is health care,” adds DAP Health CEO David Brinkman. “Together, we are transforming lives and building a healthier, more compassionate community. By focusing on health equity and social drivers of health, we highlight the connection between housing and superior health outcomes. The ability of Vista Sunrise II residents, most of whom have no means of reliable transportation, to access primary and mental health care — not to mention wraparound social services such as nutrition, health education, and so much more — within a short walk next door is a game-changer for some of our most marginalized neighbors.”

Vista Sunrise II, a collaborative effort between DAP Health and developer Coachella Valley Housing Coalition, will provide affordable housing while incorporating thoughtful design elements and sustainable construction practices. This innovative project will feature 61 units, with 30 dedicated to rapid rehousing for individuals experiencing homelessness and 30 units allocated to those with chronic illnesses and/or low incomes. Key features include:

Thoughtfully Designed Living Spaces: The units will offer a variety of configurations, including one- and two-bedroom layouts, with a housing manager’s home also onsite. Each unit has been designed to prioritize comfort and functionality, featuring large windows for natural daylight, office nooks for work-from-home opportunities, and mobility-accessible options for residents with special needs.

Sustainable Construction Practices: The project incorporates environmentally friendly practices such as density housing on an existing site to minimize land clearing, “cool roof” materials to reduce energy costs, and all-electric appliances to decrease reliance on fossil fuels. Additionally, carports with solar panels will offset the complex’s power grid electrical needs, further enhancing its sustainability.

Unique Amenities: Vista Sunrise II offers a range of amenities to foster community engagement and well-being, including rooftop terraces with mountain views, outdoor courtyards, a community center for gatherings and learning, and on-site case management services for residents. The proximity to DAP Health programs and services, grocery stores, shops, and an adjacent park will encourage residents to lead a healthy, active lifestyle.

Vista Sunrise II represents a beacon of affordable housing innovation, combining compassionate care with sustainable practices to create a thriving community for all residents. With Desert Care Network’s generous contribution, this project will continue to make a positive impact on the lives of individuals and families in Palm Springs for decades to come.

 

About DAP Health

DAP Health, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2024, is an internationally renowned humanitarian health care organization and federally qualified health center (FQHC) whose goal is to protect and expand health care access for all people — especially the disenfranchised — regardless of who or where they are, their health status, or whether they have health insurance.
 
In 2023, the nonprofit made a successful bid to absorb the Borrego Health system, enabling its 950 employees to serve more than 85,000 patients of all populations, genders, and ages — from newborns to seniors — at a total of 25 Southern California clinics located within 240 rural and urban zip codes from the Coachella Valley to the San Diego coast.

For years, DAP Health’s programs and services have included primary care, infectious diseases, gender-affirming care, LGBTQ+ care, mental health, dentistry, harm reduction, recovery services, affordable housing, social services, and HIV prevention, testing, and treatment. The additional disciplines now under its vast umbrella include family medicine, women’s health (including OB-GYN), pediatrics, veterans’ health, geriatrics, urgent care, and pharmacy services.

The organization was founded as Desert AIDS Project in 1984 by a group of volunteers. Thanks to nearly 40 years of experience caring for those affected not only by the HIV epidemic but by various other public health emergencies (COVID-19, mpox), DAP Health has the physical and intellectual resources, the drive, and — most importantly — the vision to effect even greater change by positively impacting its diverse patient populations’ social drivers of health (SDOH).
 
According to the World Health Organization, SDOH are “the non-medical factors that influence health outcomes. They are the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life.”
 
The next epidemic hasn’t surfaced — yet. But just as DAP Health met earlier community health crises decisively and successfully, its experts stand at the ready.

 

About Vision Forward

Vision Forward is DAP Health’s 10-year strategic plan that will see the organization grow from serving 10,000 individuals annually today at its Sunrise campus to 25,000 patients and clients a year by 2025. So far, this broadminded expansion has encompassed:

  • The purchase of the Annette Bloch CARE Building and the opening of its three clinics.
  • The opening of a DAP Health sexual wellness clinic in Palm Springs.
  • Construction of Vista Sunrise II, which will feature 61 new units of affordable housing, to be completed in the second quarter of 2024.

Still to come is the Tenet Health Pavilion, a structure that will bridge the Barbara Keller LOVE Building and the Annette Bloch CARE Building, and which will include:

  • A transit- and pedestrian-friendly pathway.
  • A central registration area for all patient services.
  • A cafe open to the public that will be staffed and managed by clients of DAP Health’s Return-to-Work program.

 

About Desert Care Network

Desert Care Network is your health care resource in the Coachella Valley and Morongo Basin regions of Southern California. We are three hospitals: Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, JFK Memorial Hospital in Indio, and Hi-Desert Medical Center in Joshua Tree. Working together, we bring advanced health care to our communities.

We operate a Level 1 trauma center at Desert Regional, the highest possible. And Level 4 trauma centers at JFK and Hi-Desert.

We have created a network of stroke-ready hospitals, anchored by Desert Regional Medical Center — our valley’s only nationally accredited comprehensive stroke center — and supported by the primary stroke center at JFK and the certified stroke-ready hospital at Hi-Desert.

Desert Regional is home to the only Level 3 neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for newborns in the Coachella Valley. We also operate a hospital-based clinic that provides high-risk care for expectant moms.

DCN has an unwavering commitment to our community. We train the next generations of physicians through our residency program, and those doctors staff mobile clinics that provide services to the underserved, unhoused, and refugee populations across the desert.

DCN provides over a hundred million dollars in free and discounted health care to patients in need each year. In the last three decades, we have given millions of dollars in charitable donations and sponsorships to local organizations, including DAP Health, FIND Food Bank, the Women Leaders Forum, Volunteers in Medicine, and many more.

We are dedicated, driven, and proud to serve the health care needs of the Coachella Valley, the Morongo Basin, and everyone who visits our desert.

 

About Coachella Valley Housing Coalition

The Coachella Valley Housing Coalition was founded in 1982 by a group of community advocates, the local community, and business leaders, to address the substandard living conditions farmworkers and other low-income persons were enduring in the Eastern Coachella Valley.

Their innate sense of compassion for the human condition inspired them to help hundreds of families move out of inadequate living conditions — which included makeshift power poles in unpermitted mobile home parks, contaminated drinking water, and other crude housing additions made of cardboard — into safe, decent, and affordable housing. With a $10,000-dollar seed grant from the Aetna Foundation, the board of directors established the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition (CVHC).

Today, CVHC is an award-winning tax-exempt 501 (c)(3), nonprofit affordable housing development organization that has been named amongst the Top 50 Affordable Housing Developers in the country. Every CVHC housing community is built with a solid commitment to partnerships, vision, and extensive community planning. CVHC is a Neighbor Works® America chartered member and a Rural LISC partner. It has developed affordable housing throughout Riverside and Imperial Counties, and has developed more than 5,000 multi-family and single-family residences, making it the largest affordable housing developer in Riverside County.

Key Programs

Rental Housing: Through its Multi-Family Housing Development department, CVHC builds affordable rental housing for working families (in hospitality, retail, and health care), farmworkers, retired farmworkers, migrant farmworkers, veterans, and families/individuals with special needs — the elderly, people with disabilities, and chronic illnesses. With more than 41 affordable rental communities totaling 2,953 units developed throughout Riverside County, CVHC offers an array of housing options for renters who are looking for a steppingstone to homeownership, or who are in need of affordable rental housing. CVHC is proud to partner with DAP Health on the development and operations of Vista Sunrise II, a 61-unit special needs development located in the city of Palm Springs. The development will include 29 units for chronically homeless individuals and 31 units for chronic illnesses. The Vista Sunrise II development will be CVHC’s fifth special needs development constructed in Riverside County.

Homeownership Through the Mutual Self-Help Housing Program: Since 1989, CVHC has been helping families fulfill their dream of homeownership. Creating affordable homeownership opportunities for low-income families is a part of CVHC’s mission. The mutual self-help housing program means homes are built in part by homeowners. In the mutual self-help program, families work together and collectively build each other’s homes by using their sweat equity in place of a down payment.    Mutual self-help housing essentially builds communities based on a shared commitment of hard work, mutual support, and lifelong bonds. CVHC is the largest mutual self-help developer in the nation. To date, over 2,160 single-family homes have been constructed throughout Riverside and Imperial counties.

Community Engagement: CVHC also provides enrichment and educational programs at its Multi-Family developments. These include early childhood education centers, afterschool kids clubs, computer Instruction + technology centers, ballet folklorico dance instruction, mariachi music instruction, alternative high school diploma and GED programs for adults, community gardens + wellness for seniors, health and wellness educational classes + events, and English as a second language.

John F. Mealey College Scholarship Fund: In 2020, CVHC created the JFM Scholarship Fund in honor of its founding executive director. The scholarship is awarded annually to students living in CVHC developments who are seeking a higher education at any accredited college, university, or vocation school. To date, more than $962,000 in scholarships have been awarded, benefiting more than 889 students, supporting their dreams, and helping them persevere to complete their degrees.

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March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Mon …

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Here’s the 101 so that you can keep yourself and those you love safe.

Words by David Russo

 

“Colon cancer is the battle we can win with early detection and regular screening.”

                                                                                                               — Unknown

DAP Health’s Associate Chief Medical Officer Dr. Silas Gyimah is fond of that inspiring citation of unknown derivation. As the founder of the Palm Springs-based, queer-led nonprofit Cheeky Charity — whose mission is to facilitate colorectal and anal cancer prevention, early detection, and support, with a focus on the young and LGBTQ+ populations — so am I.

“At every visit, we verify records to see if a patient is due for a screening,” Gyimah says. “If they are, we schedule them, focusing on FIT [fecal immunochemical test] and colonoscopies as our primary screening methods. This is a true implementation of the quote above.” 

Let’s delve more deeply into this largely preventable and curable disease.

 

Colorectal Health: Understanding and Prevention

Colorectal cancer (CRC), once predominantly a concern for older adults, is now increasingly affecting younger individuals. This shift necessitates a renewed focus. Understanding the nuances of colorectal health is vital for individuals of all ages.

 

Understanding Colorectal Cancer

CRC originates in the colon or rectum, part of the digestive system. It usually begins as small, noncancerous (benign) clumps of cells called polyps that form on the inside of the colon. Over time, some of these polyps can become colon cancers.

 

Symptoms To Be Aware Of

CRC might not cause symptoms right away, but if they occur, they may include changes in bowel habits, rectal bleeding or blood in the stool, persistent abdominal discomfort, a feeling that the bowel doesn’t empty completely, weakness or fatigue, and unexplained weight loss. It’s important to consult a health care provider if any of these symptoms are experienced.

 

Risk Factors

Certain factors increase the risk of developing CRC. These include older age, a personal or family history of CRC or colorectal polyps, inflammatory intestinal conditions, a low-fiber/high-fat diet, a sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, obesity, smoking, and alcohol use. Genetics also play a role, with some inherited genes increasing the risk.

 

Prevention Strategies

Prevention of CRC starts with lifestyle changes. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains — and low in red and processed meats — can reduce risk. Regular physical activity is crucial. Maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking, and moderating alcohol consumption are also recommended.

 

The Importance of Screening

Screening for CRC is one of the most powerful weapons for preventing the disease. It’s generally recommended to begin screening at age 45. Screening can find precancerous polyps, which can be removed before they turn into cancer. For people at higher risk, such as those with a family history, screening may be recommended earlier.

 

Navigating the Rising Trend in Young Adults

The rising incidence of CRC among young adults is a complex issue that involves a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. It’s important for young adults to:

  • Be aware of their family history.
  • Minimize known risks.
  • Incorporate healthy preventative habits into their lifestyle.
  • Regularly check for symptoms.
  • Discuss screenings with their health care providers if they have risk factors.

 

Conclusion

As our understanding of colorectal health evolves, it becomes clear that CRC is not just a concern for the elderly. The increase in cases among younger adults emphasizes the importance of awareness and proactive health measures across all age groups. Through lifestyle modifications, regular screening, and early detection, the impact of CRC can be significantly reduced.

 

Resources

Colorectal Cancer Alliance, colorectalcancer.org

American Cancer Society, cancer.org/cancer/types/colon-rectal-cancer

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal

Cheeky Charity, cheekycharity.org

 

In a partnership between DAP Health and Cheeky Charity — and in honor of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month — 50 eye-catching banners will be flown throughout downtown Palm Springs during March to help raise awareness and reduce stigma.