Andretti family partnership will provide free colonoscopy screenings for Community Care Clinic patients

Published 12:10 am Thursday, March 24, 2022

SALISBURY — Thanks to a partnership with the family of racer John Andretti, the Community Care Clinic of Rowan will begin offering free colonoscopy screenings for its some of its patients.

Andretti, one of several racers in his family, enjoyed more than two decades of winning races in NASCAR, Indy Car World Series and the Rolex Sports Car Series before he died in January 2020 to colorectal cancer. Andretti didn’t receive his first colonoscopy until he was 52, when his cancer was detected.

Two years after his death, an awareness campaign that initially began as #CheckIt4Andretti has grown to a foundation that will now support free colonoscopies for the uninsured, underinsured and those too young for insurance to cover. And on March 11, the Andretti family formally launched a partnership with Northeast Digestive Health Center in Concord to expand those efforts to patients of the Community Care Clinic of Rowan, located at 315 Mocksville Avenue Suite G.

Andretti’s wife, Nancy, told the Post it’s about raising awareness and catching complications earlier rather than later. In 2021, the estimated number of new cases of colon and rectal cancers, collectively known as colorectal cancer, was 149,500. That same year, the American Cancer Society lowered its recommended age for regular colorectal screenings from 50 to 45 years old. Nancy said she’d love to see it lowered to 40.

Nancy said John wasn’t given three years to live, but he did. During that time, he endured surgery, two rounds of chemotherapy and experimental treatment before the cancer spread to his liver and lungs.

“This disease is so pervasive,” Nancy said.

John and Nancy’s son, Jarrett, said it’s not only about paying for those who can’t afford a screening, but also to help people be their own health advocate as many don’t get screened in time even when they can.

Under the partnership, CheckIt4Andretti Foundation worked with North Carolina Association of Free and Charitable Clinics to identify high-risk, low-income patients served by one of the 73 member clinics, and Salisbury’s clinic was selected.

Dr. Amy Wilson, medical director at the Community Care Clinic, said the clinic was excited to “act as quick as we could.” An initial list of 10 patients with the most urgent needs have already been recommended for the free screenings, with scheduling underway. Since the partnership is new, Wilson said it’s not yet known how many patients will be served, but right now the focus is on those who are due for screenings and at-risk due to family history.

“We have long desired a way for our patients to get colon cancer screenings,” Wilson said.

Wilson said it’s important because when cancer can be caught early, it can be treatable and even curable.

Nancy and Jarrett said the foundation is working to establish more partnerships throughout the state and across Indiana, where John and Nancy are from. Jarrett is carrying on his father’s legacy on the track, too, as he raced in Florida last week to compete in the 12 Hours of Sebring.

Jarrett said the family wants to give back to North Carolinians the way they’ve given so much to their family.

“It’s his legacy that we’re pushing toward and honoring,” Jarrett said. “It takes a village and all pulling on the same end of the rope.”

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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