PHILADELPHIA—Gun violence has risen to crisis levels in Philadelphia, with more than 500 homicides in 2021. Taking aim at the issue are two initiatives to improve gun safety through the use of gun locks and education, which received Penn Medicine CAREs funding this quarter along with 23 additional projects from employees across Penn Medicine who volunteer their time and resources to strengthen the communities they serve.
Many gun deaths and injuries can be prevented through safe storage, improved firearm handling, and keeping guns away from those at risk of hurting themselves or others. Sunny Jackson, MSN, RN, an injury prevention coordinator with the Trauma Center at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, received CAREs funding to purchase 200 gun locks, to be used in educating patients and community members.
“Suicide and homicide are often acts of impulse, and the proper handling of a firearm can save lives,” Jackson said. “Thanks to this CAREs grant program, we’re able to provide free gun locks, in combination with literature on safe gun handling. We hope these efforts can help break the cycle of violence in the community.”
Julia Carney, MD, a resident in Family Medicine, also received CAREs funding to purchase 200 gun locks. Carney’s CAREs grant will go toward providing gun locks to Penn Family Care providers, who will give them to patients while educating families about the importance of safe firearm storage. Carney, in partnership with Family Medicine residents Lily Black, MD, and Kanika Ramchandani, MD, along with Damorura Martinez, a clinical services associate, Joyce Summerville, senior practice manager, and Jennifer Lee, MD, medical director, have brought this project to fruition knowing its value for the families they see every day. Such discussions can also facilitate broader conversations about safety in primary care.
In addition, the annual CAREs Community Champion Award has been given to Beth Widdowson, a practice coordinator with Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, for A.I.M to Empower—a nonprofit that provides free yoga classes to underserved communities in the Lancaster area. The honor carries an additional $5,000 grant for A.I.M. to Empower. Widdowson previously received two CAREs grants to support the organization, which brings yoga practice and its benefits to children in the School District of Lancaster, to those serving time in prison and intervention centers, and to those living in shelters. The annual honor, in its third year, is awarded to a CAREs-funded program whose growth and outcomes exceeded expectations.
Other projects awarded CAREs funding this past quarter include:
- Community Menstrual and Postpartum Support: Shelley Aragoncillo, a clinical research coordinator with the division of Family Planning, is the founder and operator of Grab-n-Flow, an outdoor shed that stocks products related to menstruation and postpartum provided free to the community. Aragoncillo’s grant will help purchase additional storage sheds, plastic storage containers, pads, tampons, and other useful items. The new sheds will be located at libraries within the city, a project being trialed through a partnership with the Free Library of Philadelphia and the Maternal and Infant Health Community Action Network.
- Cancer Screenings in the Community: Colorectal cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths among Black Americans. Decreased access to screening has been a major factor in this disparity. Carmen Guerra, MD, an Internal Medicine physician in the Perelman School of Medicine, has led community colorectal cancer screening events in Philadelphia. Ricky Brathwaite, a cancer biology PhD student, will use his grant to host another screening event at a church in West Philadelphia.
- Diabetic Senior Care: Elderly diabetic patients are particularly burdened by foot disease, which can lead to more medical complications—even amputation. Taylor LaCorte, a wound ostomy nurse at Penn Medicine Princeton Health, will provide quarterly foot screenings for elderly diabetic patients at the Hillsborough Senior Center, seeking to prevent diabetic wounds. LaCorte’s grant covers the costs of foot-screening tools, written educational materials for the patients, and other educational giveaways.
CAREs funding can be used for projects big and small, or for new or existing community outreach efforts. Grants are awarded to employees based on the quality of the program, the needs of the community it aims to assist, and potential overall impact. Since 2011, the CAREs Grant program has provided more than $750,000 in funding to over 750 service initiatives across the region Penn Medicine serves, from Philadelphia and Lancaster and Chester counties to the suburbs and shore communities of New Jersey.
To view all of the recent CARES Grant recipients, visit PennMedicine.org/CAREs. For more information on the CAREs Grant or community outreach programs, visit PennMedicine.org/Community.
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