Dennis Mitchell runs the popular “Denny Moe’s Superstar Barbershop” (2496 Frederick Douglass Blvd, between 133rd and 134th Sts.) in central Harlem. In addition to giving “superstar” hair, nail, and facial treatments, Denny Moe is an advocate for health education in his community. He collaborates with many health organizations to hold screenings for hypertension, colon cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, cholesterol, kidney disease, HIV, and asthma.
Q. What role does Denny Moe’s Superstar Barbershop play in promoting the health of the Harlem community?
A. The barbershop is the center of it all; it’s the mecca in the community. You don’t even have to turn on the news! You can go to the barbershop and get your daily current events. Denny Moe’s Superstar Barbershop plays a major role because we have health screening events at least five times a year and we also put out fliers, posters, and banners to keep the community educated on these health disparities that devastate our community.
Q. Can you tell us more about the health screenings that you do?
A. We team up with various organizations like the American Heart Association, New York University Medical Center (NYU), St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital, Harlem Hospital, Iris House, and the Abyssinian Baptist Church’s health outreach program, the Barbershop Quartet. They go out to barbershops all over Harlem to have people tested, but Denny Moe’s is one of their main partners. We’ll organize an event, then send out fliers, e-mail blasts, and other messages throughout our different social networks and really push to get people in to have them tested. I’ve gotten letters from customers and people in the community thanking us for giving them this outlet to better their health. And I’m pretty big on follow-ups.
Q. Can you talk more about how you follow up after a person has been screened?
A. I don’t allow anybody to come in here without a plan to follow up and make sure our people are taken care of after they’re screened. Nobody wants to know that they’re sick and can’t do anything about it. So when we sit down to plan a screening event, we make sure that there is a plan in place in case a person doesn’t have any or the right kind of insurance that they may need to get care. Health comes first! I would be a hypocrite if I told people to come and get tested and then didn’t have any outlets for them to get proper care. We have a kind of hotline going on, for example we can directly contact Dr. Joseph Ravenell at NYU Langone Medical Center or Dr. Keith Ferdinand with the National Hypertension Association .
Q. Are health screenings targeted to certain age groups?
A. Each organization that comes in to screen tends to focus on a certain community groups, particularly men over the age of 50. But now, with the Iris House who comes in to do HIV testing, they focus on young men from the age of 18 to 21. This year, we’ll also be catering to a wider range of adults and the youth.
Q. Do you know of any other barbershops that do similar work?
A. Well, I know a few barbershops that allow for organizations to come in and do different types of health screenings, but they’re not advocates of the big-scale promotion. I’m not saying they don’t do it, but I don’t know of any.
Q. Have any other barbershops inspired you?
A. No, absolutely not! I’m a trail blazer!