The fourth Straumann Charity Bike Ride in September proved a huge success, with over 50 riders completing the 500-miles-in-five-day challenge in Italy, raising over £60,000 for the Mouth Cancer Foundation (MCF). Vinod Joshi, MCF founder and his son Krishan, co-founder and trustee, cheered the riders over the finish line before speaking to The Revu.
A message to riders and their supporters
Firstly Krishan thanked Straumann and all who took part in the gruelling challenge: “I think it’s a courageous experience that they have undertaken and I can’t wait to hear everyone’s story to understand what they’ve been through,” he said.
“The reason they did what they did is because we are here to save lives. To those who have donated, thank you very much. To those who are thinking of doing so, please support the riders and donate. We have a big vision we are going to drive forward and thanks to the encouragement and support Straumann have given to MCF, we are really looking forward to using the funds they have raised to help at the grassroots level UK-wide.
There are a lot of support groups out there who need our help and our funds. We also want to raise more awareness of self-detection, early detection and early diagnosis which saves lives. I think it’s important for the riders to understand my dad’s history and the Foundation’s so they can have a deeper understanding of why they did what they did.”
The MCF story so far
With a background working as a consultant in restorative dentistry, part of Vinod’s remit was caring for head and neck cancer patients. As a trained maxillofacial prosthodontist, he was involved in the rehabilitation of the patients after cancer treatment.
“I realised that a lot of patients required support over and above the time they spent at the hospital with a Macmillan nurse,” Vinod explained. “They really wanted to know what the patient journey was. And to talk to other patients to get some idea of what to expect, get some confidence and realise they are not alone in the situation.”
Vinod would ask his patients to put down on paper stories about their personal journeys and photocopy these to distribute to his new patients. “Then, when the internet really started to evolve I realised I could do this on a website,” he said. Krishnan helped him to create it as a one-stop centre where people could get all of the information that they needed.
For example, a patient forum where patients get in touch with one another and share information and online stories as well as providing support for patients and their carers. There is also advice for patients about the different treatments available and information for dental professionals about early screening and how to manage patients who have complications from cancer treatment. Having first set up the website, Vinod immediately wanted to create the first patient-focussed cancer charity which became the Mouth Cancer Foundation.
Innovation in raising awareness
Over the years the MCF has innovated with ways to raise awareness of how mouth cancer can develop. To get young people interested they set up a singing show that went into schools and one young person even made a rap about mouth cancer. The MCF assists dental practices by providing free leaflets for patients and were the first to warn the public of the link between the HPV virus and mouth cancer. They were also first to talk about the need for boys to have the HPV vaccine in addition to girls. A video and leaflet entitled ‘Bite Back at Mouth Cancer’ demonstrates how to examine yourself and what signs to look for.
“Using the funds from the latest Straumann Charity Bike Ride we are hoping to promote this campaign more extensively through social media because that’s where young people are at today and that’s where we need to get the message out to,” explained Vinod.
Linking up with Straumann
As a consultant in restorative dentistry in 1991, Vinod had been involved with Straumann before their implants even bore the name. He used Straumann implants for head and neck cancer patients because often after cancer treatment patients can lose control of their tongue, lose lower teeth and encounter difficulty controlling their dentures. Vinod used implants for anchoring the dentures down and the Straumann connection was born.
Vision for the future
“My wish is that once a year dentistry will come together and have a special event in which they participate in a social manner. Because dentists work in the mouth the logical thing is for them to be involved in a social event that is to do with the mouth. For me the Mouth Cancer Awareness Walk is the ‘walk of dentists’ and I envisage dental practices sending their teams with banners walking in Hyde Park in their thousands and dental schools sending their students.”
Aiming for a million views
Another major future aim for the MCF is to work together with Straumann on the ‘big idea’ which is to achieve a million views of the Bite Back video.
Krishan said: “If we can use these funds to achieve a million views it will definitely make a dramatic impact. Whether its YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat – that’s where we want to raise awareness of Bite Back. It’s all about the fact that just two minutes can save your life. We will teach people to look in the mirror and learn to check for early signs of what could be mouth cancer. If just two minutes when you are brushing your teeth is dedicated to thinking about and checking for the symptoms and signs of mouth cancer, then we have done our job.”
You can still contribute to Straumann’s efforts raising money for Mouth Cancer Foundation by visiting http://straumannbikeride.com/
Facebook: Straumann UK