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2nd Annual Cancer Disparities Symposium

2nd Annual Cancer Disparities Symposium

Message from the Associate Director for Cancer Disparities Research: Monica Webb Hooper, PhD

On March 23, 2018, 200 people gathered in the Wolstein Research Building on the CWRU campus for the 2nd annual Cancer Disparities Symposium, “Taking it to the Streets: Where Cancer Disparities Research and Community Intersect.” I was delighted to see the growth of the meeting, and again inspired by the overwhelmingly positive response to this event. Among the goals of the symposium were the dissemination of findings within the Cancer Center, university, and larger communities, and the facilitation of academic-community engagement. Thus, we convened an audience that represented a variety of sectors within our community. Researchers, clinicians, health professionals, patient advocates, students, community organizations, and government representatives from across the region and beyond joined to discuss current research, share ideas and form new collaborations, and continue the growing momentum for future efforts to address cancer-related disparities.

This year's symposium was organized around two themes (Structural and Social Determinants; and Cancer Disparities Across Populations) that were well-complemented by keynote presentations from Frances Mills (Cleveland Department of Public Health) and Dr. Lucile Adams-Campbell (Georgetown University Medical Center and Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center). Our fantastic speakers offered perspectives on contributors to cancer disparities across the continuum, from legal to molecular. This year, we instituted a unique poster session that showcased both scientific and community programming presentations – side by side – and met the goal of academic-community engagement.

There are numerous highlights from this meeting that I would like to share, but for the sake of brevity, I will mention just one. Over the past 6 months, the Community Trust and Engagement Working Group of the Case CCC Community Advisory Board (CAB), completed phase one of the Forward Movement Project – a community listening tour. This project exemplifies community-based participatory research (CBPR), which begins with a topic of importance to the community, develops a systematic investigation, and regards academic and community partners as true equals. The goal of the listening tour is to enhance our understanding of factors related to the current level of community trust in Greater Cleveland. This qualitative, phenomenological research study gathered residents from nine areas of the community (N = 130), to engage in open-ended forums for sharing thoughts, ideas, and concerns, about cancer prevention and control, healthcare systems, and research.

Thematic findings presented at the symposium included:

  • Lived experiences, and those of significant others, has resulted in distrust for the local healthcare system, research, and providers
  • Cultural factors (e.g., race/ethnicity, communication barriers, religion, hearing impairment), including cultural mismatches and perceived lack of empathy, have affected trust during clinical encounters and in the research context
  • Contextual factors, such as the neighborhood in which one resides and the specific health system, exert a meaningful influence on community trust   
  • Significant distrust for healthcare systems, which are viewed as big businesses, concerned about financial benefit versus patient care

I note that these findings are preliminary. In the coming months, the Working Group and the CAB will continue analysis of this rich dataset and disseminate final reports to all stakeholders, including the academic and larger communities. We will also begin our work on phase two. Special thanks to the organizations and researchers who have supported the Forward Movement Project, including Drs. Stan Gerson, Crawford, Kishore Guda, Siran Koroukian, Smitha Krishnamurthi, Cheryl Thompson, and Vinay Varadan – who joined as guests on stops of the listening tour.

This symposium is the among the many cancer disparities-focused activities being organized by the Office of Cancer Disparities Research (OCDR). Thank you to all who attended and participated in the discussions – your thoughts and comments are well appreciated and noted. They will help to shape the activities of the OCDR in the coming year, as we work to increase our engagement with the community and move forward in cancer disparities research.

I would like to recognize our dedicated symposium planning committee: Kris Austin, LSW, MSED; Natalie Joseph, MD; Siran Koroukian, PhD; Smitha Krishnamurthi, MD; Cynthia Owusu, MD, MSc; and Paola Raska, PhD. My sincerest thanks to the Cancer Center Administration and OCDR staff for their countless hours of work in ensuring the success of the symposium, and to the Case CCC CAB for all of their efforts.

Monica Webb Hooper, PhD
Associate Director for Cancer Disparities Research
Case Comprehensive Cancer Center