Hayley Thompson, Ph.D., wins WSU’s Spirit of Community 2017 Faculty Engagement Award

Hayley Thompson, Ph.D., (second from left) of Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University, received the inaugural Spirit of Community 2017 Faculty Engagement Award from Wayne State University. Presenting the award were from left, Kim Trent, WSU Board of Governors; Dr. Thompson; WSU President Dr. M. Roy Wilson; and Dr. Mathew L. Ouellett, associate provost and director, Office for Teaching and Learning, WSU. Photo by Eric Payne

When it comes to engaging community and collaborating with others to make a significant difference in the lives of cancer survivors, Hayley Thompson, Ph.D., is a master. She brings her invaluable expertise, rich experience and art of collaboration to benefit those touched by cancer – including the most vulnerable.

Dr. Thompson, leader of the Population Studies and Disparities Research Program at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute and associate professor, Wayne State University School of Medicine, received the inaugural Spirit of Community 2017 Faculty Engagement Award from Wayne State University at a special reception held on March 23.

The Spirit of Community Faculty Engagement Award recognizes a faculty member who best exemplifies the spirit of WSU’s deep commitment to community engagement. The winner is selected based on their ongoing demonstration of outstanding achievement in academic service-learning by working in a mutually beneficial partnership with community organizations, developing creative, thoughtful and compassionate student leaders, and who enhances exemplary community-based research. Dr. Thompson was nominated by Cathryn Bock, Ph.D., associate professor of oncology, Population Science, Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University.   

The award is a result of Dr. Thomson’s many accomplishments since joining the faculty of WSU and Karmanos in 2011. Some of those accomplishments include:

  • Serving as project director of The Witness Project of Detroit, an evidence and community-based educational program to address racial disparities related to breast and cervical cancer in Wayne County. The project engages Witness Role Models who are breast and cervical cancer survivors, as well as Lay Health Advisors who provide education about the diseases, risk factors and early detection strategies. Since 2012, 50 volunteer laypersons and eight student interns have been trained, resulting in life-saving information shared with more than 1,700 women in the Detroit area.  
  • Founding and chairing the Population Impact Workshop at Karmanos to facilitate and educate the importance of community engagement in cancer research studies; and  
  • Creating Detroit HeathLink for Equity in Cancer Care, funded through Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, to establish Cancer Action Councils (CAC), collaborating with several community leaders and cancer advocates within specific communities who share their knowledge and expertise to improve the lives of cancer patients, survivors and caregivers. The three current active council sites, each engaging 12-15 community representatives, include Voices of Detroit Initiative, on Detroit’s east side; Western Wayne Family Center, in Inkster; and Karmanos Cancer institute, in Midtown Detroit. Additional council sites being developed include LGBT Detroit communities of color; ACCESS, which will focus on the Arab American community in Dearborn; and another Karmanos council focused on Cancer, Communities and Technology. Each of these councils help improve the lives of cancer survivors.    

Tiffany Brent, MPH, JD, executive director of Voices of Detroit Initiative, has worked with Dr. Thompson on community-based projects.

“Dr. Thompson’s vision for the integration of care and community is unparalleled,” said Brent. “Being a leader in both cancer care and community while in an academia setting means that a person is uniquely adept to straddle two worlds. Dr. Thompson has an appreciation for community outcomes that is far greater than I have ever experienced with a research partner.

“Dr. Thompson articulates a vision to see positive movement for the participants of every project in which she is involved. To see her passion and brilliance manifest into programs that are impactful to the community is truly remarkable."

In addition to the projects highlighted, Dr. Thompson has also contributed her expertise and leadership to several other groups, and in symposiums and presentations focused on community engagement, diversity and social justice related to health, wellness and quality of life.

“It was truly an honor and a total surprise to receive this recognition,” said Dr. Thompson. “From my perspective, I’m only a small part of Detroit HealthLink for Equity in Cancer Care. The project wouldn’t exist without our outstanding internal team and the community partners and stakeholders who bring their own expertise and passion to this work as we together develop community-centered priorities for cancer research.

“I hope that through Detroit HealthLink we can show that community engagement results in stronger science.”

The two other Spirit of Community Awards given during the March reception where in the categories of Staff Engagement and Project Engagement.  

Congratulations Dr. Thompson on being selected the winner of Wayne State University’s Spirit of Community 2017 Faculty Engagement Award!