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The Witness Project® of Detroit Launches with Training Nov. 16-17 to Help Close the Gap on Cancer Disparities

Hayley Thompson, Ph.D., (center) director, The Witness Project® of Detroit, is joined by staff members Lauren Ramsey, MPH, (left) project coordinator and community health educator; and Voncile Brown-Miller, program specialist.

The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute is launching The Witness Project® of Detroit, a faith-based breast cancer education program that reaches out to African American women to help close the gap on cancer disparities. The program will hold its first training next month. It includes an evening introduction reception on Friday, Nov. 16, followed by an all-day training on Saturday, Nov. 17. The training is free and required for all those who wish to participate in the Project to help decrease cancer disparities within the African American community.

The Witness Project® of Detroit is administered by the Karmanos Cancer Institute. The program is working in partnership with Sisters Network, Greater Metropolitan Detroit Chapter, an African American breast cancer advocacy group; and Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, whose health ministry will have an active role in training and outreach.  

Director of The Witness Project® of Detroit is Hayley Thompson, Ph.D., scientific member, Population Studies and Disparities Research Program, Karmanos Cancer Institute; and associate professor, Department of Oncology, Wayne State University School of Medicine. Dr. Thompson first worked with The Witness Project® in Harlem, NY.   
“God’s grace, survival, and the power of early cancer detection – these are the principles that guide the message of The Witness Project® of Detroit,” said Dr. Thompson. "This program brings together African American women who have survived breast to serve as role models who ‘witness’ or give testimonial about their own experiences to church groups and others within the community to help raise awareness and enhance education about the importance of prevention and early detection to help save lives. The program also includes lay health advisors – women who have never been diagnosed but are committed to cancer education.”  

The Nov. 17 training will include instruction from national trainers who will teach attendees how to implement The Witness Project® model, which promotes understanding of breast cancer risk factors, challenges breast cancer myths and emphasizes current guidelines for breast cancer screening. Participants will also learn about the program’s guiding values.

"This training will be very informative and inspirational,” added Dr. Thompson. “The program will provide opportunities for advocacy to both breast cancer survivors and women who have never had cancer but are concerned. It will definitely enhance the participant’s communication skills to help raise awareness of screening, prevention and early detection within the African American community.” 

WHAT: The Witness Project® of Detroit Volunteer Training

WHEN: Introduction Reception Friday, Nov. 16, from 6 - 8 p.m. followed by training, Saturday, Nov. 17, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. 

WHERE: Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, 2080 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit, MI 48208, east of I-96. Enter from the rear parking lot.

REGISTER: The training is free and required for all those who wish to volunteer. Food and refreshments will be included. Pre-registration is required. Call Lauren Ramsey at 313-576-8032 or email her at

The Witness Project® of Detroit, which recently was awarded funding from the Susan G. Komen Detroit Race for the Cure®, is based on an educational model developed at the University of Arkansas in 1991 in response to racial disparities in breast cancer. National data shows that, compared to white women, African American women are more likely than other cultural groups to be diagnosed at later and less curable stages of breast cancer and, therefore, more likely to die from the disease. 

The Witness Project® of Detroit seeks to address these disparities by having cancer survivors or “witnesses” openly share details about their diagnosis and treatment, as well as confront the fear and silence that breast cancer evokes in many women. At the same time, it also celebrates the rich tradition of faith that is shared by many people of African descent. 

The goal of the Project is to: educate 1200 women; connect 600 women to mammography screening; and ensure that 75 percent of women in the program who are off-schedule for a mammogram get screened. For 180 women with a family history of breast cancer, the Project will provide genetics education and help navigate women to counseling services. 

The Witness Project® is a national program with 24 program-sites across the United States. Evaluation research has shown that women who receive the Project’s message demonstrate significant increases in mammography screening. 

For more information on The Witness Project® of Detroit, visit  

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