According to the classic Marilyn Monroe comedy The Seven Year Itch, the steam can supposedly go out of a relationship when it reaches the seven-year point. Fortunately, that phenomenon doesn’t apply to the relationship between the New York University College of Dentistry and the Oral Cancer Foundation, as the school’s recently-completed 7th Annual Oral Cancer Walk raised more money than any walk in the Foundation’s history.
The lead organizer of the 2012 walk was Devin Kuller, a fourth-year student due to graduate from dental school only a few weeks after the April 28 event. Devin began his involvement with the walk by helping to unload supplies as a first-year student, and he took on increasingly more responsibility over the years. “I did the bare minimum my first year,” said Devin, “but the bare minimum isn’t enough. If you’re really going to give back, you have to do more.” And more is exactly what he did. Despite a hectic class schedule, for several months leading up to the walk Devin ran meetings of his organizing team every two weeks, and for the last month they met on a weekly basis.
Devin is quick to credit his team for the walk’s success, particularly his “right-hand person”—Alexis Cohen—and seven other “core” members who attended every meeting. He also relied very heavily on Dr. Ross Kerr, a highly popular NYU professor who has been the walk’s long-time patron, and Glenn Marrus, Assistant Dean of Quality Control for the College of Dentistry. “As he does every year, Dr. Kerr provided tremendously helpful advice and inspiration,” said Devin. “He’s also a fabulous professor, although his Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology and Radiology course cut into my sleep at least as much as organizing the walk did!” Devin has equal praise for Dean Marrus, who handled the logistics of securing the necessary approvals from the NYPD, signing insurance release forms, obtaining parade permits, and more.
One of the distinctive features of the NYU walk is that the location changes every year in an attempt to reach as many New Yorkers as possible. In recent years walks have taken place in Harlem and the Bronx, so this year’s venue was Manhattan. The starting point for the walk was the College of Dentistry, which is located on 24th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues. The course took walkers through a variety of streets and neighborhoods, including Gramercy Park, Broadway, Lexington Avenue and Washington Square, near NYU’s main campus in Greenwich Village.
Making this 3.5 mile trek were approximately 600 people, many of whom were students and faculty from other New York-area schools and facilities, including Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Columbia University College of Dental Medicine and Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center.
Following the walk, people gathered in an outdoor plaza behind the dental school. There refreshments were served while the head of NYU’s Audio Visual Department played the role of deejay. Speakers included oral cancer survivor Kevin Ferrara. Kevin told how his oral cancer required disfiguring jaw and neck surgery because it was not diagnosed until 18 months after he first noticed a lesion, and he urged the audience to not let his fate befall them.
Few dental schools are as focused on the cause of early detection of oral cancer as the NYU College of Dentistry “When we examine patients in the school’s Admission Clinic, we are really encouraged to perform comprehensive head and neck cancer exams,” said Devin Kuller. “Most patients tell me they’ve never had an exam like that before. And that’s unfortunate, because with the growth in the number of oral cancer cases being caused by the human papillomavirus, everyone should be receiving this kind of exam on an annual basis.”
The NYU College of Dentistry teaches its students not only how to properly examine their patients, but also how to give back. And in light of the fact that the 7th Annual NYU Oral Cancer Walk raised over $36,000 for the Oral Cancer Foundation—more than any walk in the country has ever generated for the Foundation—it is clear that Devin Kuller and his fellow students are learning quite well.
And they don’t believe in “the seven-year itch.”