Preventing Cancer and Saving Lives


L to R: Partnership COO Liliana Pinete; Dr. Gara Sommers; Michelle Trevenen; and Calvin O. Trevenen, Principal, Whitehill Foundation

In 2018, an estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the United States and 609,640 people died from the disease, as noted by the National Institutes of Health.

While many types of cancers aren’t preventable, in 2006, a vaccine to prevent cancers related to the human papillomavirus (HPV) was approved for use in adolescents.  This scientific breakthrough in the fight against cancer has been found to be nearly 100% effective in preventing six types of HPV-related cancers in girls and boys.  However, the vaccine is woefully under-prescribed.

Dr. Gara Sommers, a specialist in gynecological oncology at RWJBarnabas Health, was concerned by the high number of her patients diagnosed with HPV-related cancers, despite the wide availability of the vaccine for more than a decade.  “Half a million women develop cervical cancer globally. Each year, every two minutes, a woman dies from this disease entity. With a simple vaccination program, all of these unnecessary deaths would be prevented.”

Dr. Sommers enlisted the support of the Whitehill Foundation and worked with the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health to create the HPV and Cancer Prevention Initiative, a pilot outreach project to increase awareness of the availability of the HPV vaccine among dentists, the public, and other providers.

Emily Haines, the Partnership’s Director of Public Health Initiatives (r) presented with Dr. Rina Ramirez, Chief Medical Officer at Zufall Health Center (l), at the 1st Rural Oral Health Symposium discussing “HPV, Cancer Risk and Vaccine Promotion Strategies”.

When increasing awareness about vaccines, it is important to engage trusted sources.  Adolescents tend to visit their dentist frequently.  This creative outreach program enlists dentists, among other clinicians, to speak with parents and adolescents about the importance of the vaccine to prevent cancer.

In the pilot year, the program educated dental professionals, parents, and students in Essex County on HPV cancer prevention.  The project yielded strong results reaching 567 individuals.

Calvin O. Trevenen, President of the Whitehill Foundation, was inspired by the outcome and committed $75,000, nearly doubling the initial gift, to expand the HPV and Cancer Prevention Initiative in 2020.  This generous donation will allow the Partnership to reach more clinicians, parents, and adolescents in northern New Jersey, with a continued focus on Essex County.

“We are truly grateful to the Whitehill Foundation for this thoughtful gift and Dr. Sommers for her outstanding advocacy,” stated Ilise Zimmerman, President and CEO. “Vaccines save lives and it is imperative that we elevate this message among providers and the public to prevent diseases.”

You can help prevent cancer. Take action today!

  • Learn more about the HPV vaccine and talk to your child’s physician.
  • Watch and share our video on the HPV vaccine.
  • The Protect Me with 3+ contest is currently accepting submissions from 5-12 graders through 1/26/20 in an effort to educate teens on the vaccines recommended for them, including the HPV vaccine. Learn more and enlist your school to participate.
  • Schedule a workshop for professionals, parents, or adolescents on cancer prevention. Contact the Partnership at 973-268-2280 ext. 108 to schedule workshops for professionals, parents or adolescents on cancer prevention.

Getting Involved