Doctor Brings Colonoscopies to Needy Across Rhode Island

Dr. Joseph D. DiMase

Dr. Joseph DiMase

Although Dr. Joseph D. DiMase and the gastroenterology fellows he was teaching at Brown University’s Medical School were working as hard as they could, they still had a huge backlog of patients in the Rhode Island Hospital colonoscopy clinic for the uninsured.

Uninsured patients waited as long as 18 months for colonoscopies, with more than 800 on the waiting list and the doctors unable to make a dent in that number.

Sidelined by his own illness, Dr. DiMase decided that change was critical.  He started visiting his colleagues around the state, persuading them to do just five free colonoscopies every year.  He talked hospitals into participating, and all but two Rhode Island hospitals joined in the effort.

Now SCUP (Screening Colonoscopies for Underserved Persons) has 75 gastroenterologists and colorectal surgeons working with 10 community health centers to enroll patients who don’t have insurance coverage for colonoscopies and providing services to them in hospitals near their homes.

Since SCUP began working, members have provided 100 colonoscopies with another 50 scheduled.

The group is not incorporated and doesn’t accept money.  To make things easier for patients preparing for the test, Dr. DiMase persuaded Braintree Laboratories to donate the necessary prep medicines.

To receive services through SCUP, you have to be a community health center patient, aged 50 to 64.  Blacks can qualify at 45.  The center will explain the procedure and its benefits and refer you to a participating hospital or endoscopy center.  To qualify call the Rhode Island community health center near you.

Jane Hayward, president of the Rhode Island Health Center Association, says,

DiMase has managed to get people screened that we have not been able to get screened before. He’s a very persuasive guy. He’s persistent, persistent, persistent. And it’s not about him. He’s doing it for patients that would have no other alternative. He really believes this procedure saves lives.

Read more about Dr. DiMase’s efforts in the Providence Journal, Sunday, March 21, 2010.

Finding free or low-cost colorectal cancer screening;

C3 is unable to provide funds to pay for colonoscopies.  If you are uninsured and need colorectal cancer screening, we suggest that you:

  • Contact your local county or state health department and ask about colorectal cancer screening available to the uninsured.
  • Call a community health center where you live and make an appointment to discuss screening with a doctor there.
  • Check with a gastroenterologist in your community to see if low-cost colonoscopies are available through his or her office.


  1. Kate Murphy says

    We at C3 are committed to being sure that every American, including those in Alaska, have access to affordable healthcare and colorectal cancer screening. It is something we are working toward, but we know that it is something that is not true today.

    We don’t provide medical services here at C3, nor can we provide funding for medical care or screening.

    However, if you have symptoms of colorectal cancer you do not need screening, you need evaluation of those symptoms, including a colonoscopy.

    Some resources you might try in Sitka to get medical care include:

    Public Health Nursing Service. While the public health nurses probably cannot complete the evaluation you need, they may be able to help you find care or apply for assistance.

    Sitka Community Hospital has a charity care program for those who cannot afford care. (Please don’t be put off by the word “charity”. All of us need help at some time.)

    While we can’t find a federally-qualified community health center in Sitka, you may be able to find one near enough to get to from this list of community health centers in Alaska.. Staff there may be able to help you find the right medical care and also the means to pay for it.

    Some physicians will reduce fees or provide for payment schedules if you explain your situation to them.

    We realize that these are patchwork solutions and may not work for you. However, if you have symptoms of colorectal cancer, we urge you to get care soon. Finding colorectal cancer at an early stage greatly increases the chances that you can be cured.

  2. judy thorssin says

    I am in Sitka,alaska where a colonoscopy costs $5000. I am unemployed and uninsured.and have warning signs I need the test. Nobody knows anything to help me. Right now it might as well be a trip to the moon. Can you help me? I would gladly come to you as I have family there. Just a thought!!!Any other thoughts?. I think it is disgraceful that us poor people have to go down with the titanic! Thankyou Judy thorssin ,,ps, I applaud your program!

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