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VCU Massey Cancer Center to deploy “Massey on the Move” mobile health vans to combat cancer in Virginia’s underserved communities

Apr 20, 2023

Original artwork detail completed by two Richmond artists, Hamilton Glass and Sir James Thornhill Vans funded by corporate and community grants will feature original artwork detailed above by two Richmond artists, Hamilton Glass (left) and Sir James Thornhill (right).

VCU Massey Cancer Center and Dominion Energy are teaming up to deploy two mobile health units that will provide critical cancer education and outreach to the public within traditionally underserved communities in central and southern Virginia. Artwork for the vans was designed by two Richmond-area street artists, Hamilton Glass and Sir James Thornhill. The vans will be deployed to the community in mid-2023.

The “Massey on the Move” vans are funded through a $300,000 grant from The Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation and its Social Justice Grants Initiative. Created in June 2020, the grants initiative supports nonprofit organizations addressing the fundamental causes of systemic inequity, including health disparities.

The mobile health education units are a critical part of Massey’s mission to combat cancer health disparities and improve outcomes for those diagnosed with cancer, regardless of racial, socioeconomic or geographic differences. The vans will provide cancer education, prevention, screening and care coordination services to under-resourced communities in Massey’s catchment area, including Petersburg, Colonial Heights, Hopewell, Portsmouth, Martinsville and Brunswick County, as well as other priority areas of Virginia with the highest mortality rates for screenable cancers. The mobile units will reach hundreds of community members in these areas monthly.

Massey’s Office of Community Outreach & Engagement, led by Vanessa B. Sheppard, Ph.D., associate director for Community Outreach & Engagement and Health Disparities, is leading the initiative. “While cancer affects all populations, certain groups face a greater risk of developing or dying from cancer due to social, environmental and economic disadvantages,” said Sheppard. Fifty-seven percent of Virginia's Black population resides in Massey’s catchment, or service, area, and 37% of Massey's patients are underrepresented minorities.

Despite progress, the cancer mortality rate today among Black Virginians is still 14% higher than whites. Sheppard and her team work to reduce cancer health disparities by promoting the importance of cancer prevention, healthy living and regular screenings to help prevent and diagnose cancer early and to improve outcomes in all of the communities Massey serves.

“Part of our work to change this dynamic is to focus on cancer hotspots – localities with higher-than-average cancer incidence and mortality rates – within our catchment area; the vans will help us better reach and serve those communities,” Sheppard added.

Dominion Energy’s Social Justice Grants Initiative is intended to address the fundamental causes of systemic racism, which includes health disparities, that impact Black and African Americans.

“The Covid pandemic widened health disparity gaps among our communities over these past few years,” said Hunter A. Applewhite, president of the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation. “The VCU Massey Cancer Center mobile health vans will provide essential health care to several communities most impacted by the social determinants of health. Our hope is for this contribution to make a lasting impact in the fight for health equity.”

“We are honored to partner with Dominion Energy as a beneficiary of the Social Justice Grants Initiative to better care for our community members in the diverse areas we serve,” said Robert A. Winn, M.D., Massey Cancer Center director and Lipman Chair in Oncology, who also serves as senior associate dean for cancer innovation at the VCU School of Medicine.

A $150,000 grant from Bank of America funded educational materials that will be distributed from the vans. Part of the bank’s $1.25 billion national commitment to advance racial equality and opportunity, the materials will focus on cancer prevention and screenings, and healthy living and wellness.

"Bank of America is dedicated to supporting organizations that are committed to helping Virginia's underserved communities," said Victor Branch, president of the Bank of America Richmond region. "We're honored to partner with VCU Massey Cancer Center as they prepare to roll out the mobile cancer health vans that will reduce health disparities in the communities we serve."

Additional funding for the Massey on the Move van operations was provided by the Jenkins Foundation and the Shelton Short Trust.

“Every person, no matter who they are or where they live, should have equal access to critical information and tools to help prevent and detect cancer, and to the most innovative treatments and care available,” said Winn. “Reducing cancer disparities and improving outcomes for everyone in our community is our driving force. We will not rest until we achieve cancer health equity for all.”

Massey on the Move artists

Richmond-based graphic artist Hamilton Glass Richmond-based graphic artist Hamilton Glass

Hamilton Glass |

Hamilton Glass is a Richmond-based graphic artist, whose career stems from his architecture and design background. Despite working in the architecture field for seven years, his passion for public art pushed him to start a career as an artist. Public art has always been a big influence and inspiration of his, because of its power to influence and inspire the surrounding community. With every project he is given to create, a message is built in that connects the work to the community in which it lives. Glass’s work is usually distinguished by his use of architectural elements with bright vivid colors and sharp lines. The colors and unpredictable lines are used to convey a certain energy and movement in each piece. Glass was recognized by the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities in October 2022 as a Richmond Humanitarian Awards honoree.

On his artwork for the Massey on the Move mobile health van, Glass said:

“My intent around the design of the Massey on the Move van is centered around the hopeful outlook on a life without cancer. The van art is focused on a community that feels empowered by the progression of science and the breakthroughs in cancer education and prevention. My hope is that the bright colors and movement in the graphics inspire joy and unity around the everyday people who are depicted. VCU Massey Cancer Center is working hard to advance science around healing from cancer and this van will be a symbol of a future without cancer.

“I want people to look at this and just see people. All of the categories should disappear. Because we’re looking at a disease that affects all people. But at the same time, my hope is that the folks who see the van will also see themselves in it. Cancer can impact all of us. Regardless of race, age, gender. I see this van as driving us toward a place where the story is about survivorship, not cancer. It is about raising awareness, sharing information and, I hope, building trust. I see myself in this van, I see my neighbor, my father, my friend. I hope you do too.”

American artist and photographer Sir James Thornhill Sir James Thornhill, bridging the gap between art and people

Sir James Thornhill |

Sir James Thornhill is an American artist and photographer born and raised in the historic Jackson Ward of Richmond, Virginia. A product of Richmond City Schools, Thornhill attended Open High School with an emphasis on art and screen printing. Although his art range encompasses various styles, his essence can be seen in the intimate oil portraits of dynamic figures balanced with backgrounds that emphasize cultural communities around the world to create an artful impact that positively through bold colors and large frames. Thornhill’s community involvement includes mentoring and teaching visual arts to inner city youth enrolled in the Arts 180 program in Richmond, and as a devoted naturalist, he shows his loyalty to the environment by using earth-respecting products in the creative process.

On his artwork for the Massey on the Move mobile health van, Thornhill said:

“I am inspired by the idea of motion and of moving toward a future without cancer. As a native of Jackson Ward, movement for many from my neighborhood includes dance and motion. It doesn’t matter your age, gender, race, size, shape or orientation – dance is a way to move towards something positive.

“Just as Massey Cancer Center is moving us all closer to a future without cancer, my figures are moving on the van. They are moving in different ways. They are moving in different styles. They are not representative of any one person or any one type of person. But they are moving. Together. One is a young girl twirling. One is a young adult male dancing. One is an older gentleman in the groove. They represent all of us. And the key is that they all – that WE all – embrace the power of information and get screened, and stay educated, and do what we all can and must do to help put cancer at bay.”

Dominion Energy and the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation

About 7 million customers in 15 states energize their homes and businesses with electricity or natural gas from Dominion Energy (NYSE: D), headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. The company is committed to safely providing reliable, affordable and sustainable energy and to achieving Net Zero emissions by 2050. Through its Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation, as well as EnergyShare and other programs, Dominion Energy contributed nearly $50 million in 2021 to community causes. The Foundation supports nonprofit causes that meet basic human needs, protect the environment, promote education, and encourage community vitality.

Visit www.DominionEnergy for more information.

Written by: Katherine Layton

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