Left to right: Siri Chenna, Peggy Tatum, and Amanda Mandy, Founders of The Gut Patrol

The Gut Patrol is a community project raising awareness about preventative measures against gastrointestinal cancer. This year, the group hosted a health fair and donated over 200 bags of food in collaboration with the Black Farmers Market and Duke University.

What gave you all the idea to start the Gut Patrol Project?

Amanda: In my work as a research coordinator, I was seeing a trend of younger folks coming in with gastrointestinal issues. That helped me to speak to our researchers, doctors, and epidemiologists, like, “Why is this happening?” And then with the death of [actor] Chadwick Boseman, that just really stirred something up in me. Like, 45, colorectal cancer and dying—how long [ago] did this start?

The providers in our work afforded me an opportunity to get a grant with the North Carolina Gastrointestinal Society. I reached out to Peggy and said, “You’ve helped me write this grant, you’re well connected, we can get this together.” And we formulated the Gut Patrol to go out and bring awareness to the community about gastrointestinal health.

What events has the Gut Patrol hosted so far?

Peggy: We just did the one health fair on March 15. But we had a number of speaking engagements on our schedule where we were going around because we did a special edition on TCP Magazine just for the Gut Patrol. We’ve participated with the State Employees Credit Union Association and we’re part of their health fair.

Siri: We also did a webinar back in February where we had around 80 participants or attendees come in collaboration with our Duke Health Advisory Team to put that together. And we do envision having more of these in the future.

When the Gut Patrol hosts a seminar or a health fair, what are some of the big points you usually hit?

Peggy: Amanda took all the questions on the webinar. We covered stomach cancer and colon cancer on it, and we had folks online asking for advice as to what to ask their doctor if they went to the doctor.

Amanda: We get a lot of people asking about probiotics, about health programs, about when they should talk to their health care provider. Our advisory team is made up of a gastroenterologist, a hepatologist, an epidemiologist, and the director of the Duke Cancer Institute’s office of equity and inclusion. They have a program called Patient Navigator so when people come in and they don’t have a provider or insurance, the Navigator program can help them find providers within the system.

How are you receiving funding and help for this project?

Peggy: Duke has also given us a lot of resources and the people on the advisory team, and that’s invaluable. When we were telling people about what we were doing with the Gut Patrol, they understood the vision—not everybody, but the ones who understood just came in and did their own contributions. We have a number of partners; someone came in and made us T-shirts.

We’ve been looking toward other methods of income as far as other grants are concerned. But we want to make sure whatever we apply for, we’re able to adhere to what all those guidelines are. It’s not just a one-stop thing. We’ve got other things to do. We’ve got other plans for the Patrol. 

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