Karmanos Cancer Institute Office of Cancer Health Equity and Community Engagement honored by Michigan Cancer Consortium with 2020 Spirit of Collaboration Award

The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute is pleased to announce that it has been recognized by the Michigan Cancer Consortium (MCC) with the 2020 Spirit of Collaboration Award for the work completed by the Office of Cancer Health Equity and Community Engagement. The Spirit of Collaboration Award is the highest honor the Michigan Cancer Consortium presents to member organizations, recognizing outstanding collaborative work that significantly moves cancer prevention and control activities forward in Michigan. The Spirit of Collaboration Awards presentation took place on October 29, 2020, during the virtual MCC Annual Meeting.

“It is an honor to be recognized with this award,” said Hayley Thompson, Ph.D., associate center director, Community Outreach & Engagement, Karmanos Cancer Institute and associate professor of oncology, Wayne State University School of Medicine. “This achievement emphasizes the importance of the work we do every day to serve our community. Through collaboration with our valued partners, we can provide better outcomes and reduce disparities in health care and beyond.”

Karmanos Cancer Institute’s Office of Cancer Health Equity and Community Engagement’s (OCHECE) mission is to eliminate cancer health disparities in Michigan by promoting community-engaged research and evidence-based strategies throughout Karmanos’ 46-county catchment area in Michigan. The Office exemplifies the nature of combining community engagement with research by supporting strategic research initiatives, creating academic-community partnerships and using evidence-based strategies.

OCHECE Programs and Initiatives

OCHECE has established a Research and Advocacy Consortium (RAC), a growing network that currently includes faith-based, social service and public health organizations. The RAC is a network of more than 35 community partners that work with OCHECE to support evidence-based interventions to improve cancer outcomes; inform diverse communities about clinical trials, cancer control, prevention, screening and treatment; aid in the dissemination and implementation of research discoveries; and advance health policy recommendations. In 2019 the RAC initiative expanded to include community organizations from Karmanos’ 46-county catchment areas.

To learn from and network with community members who have identified research priorities and patterns, OCHECE hosts an annual Community Engaged Research Symposium designed for cancer survivors, caregivers, advocates and members of the public. Over the past two years, evaluations indicated a 98-99 percent satisfaction rate with the agenda. Most participants desired to first learn more about community engaged research opportunities and best practices in community engagement. The second Community Engaged Research Symposium nearly doubled in participation, emphasizing the growing interest in community engagement in research. This year’s symposium will take place December 1 and 2 and address the impact of COVID-19 on Community Engagement and Research.

OCHECE also coordinates Michigan Cancer HealthLink, which is comprised of a network of Cancer Action Councils (CACs). These groups include cancer survivors, caregivers and advocates who use knowledge of their respective communities to inform local cancer-related research. There are currently about 90 members across eight CACs in six cities across four counties.

Most recently, OCHECE was awarded a grant by the National Cancer Institute to examine the impact of the coronavirus on cancer and the surrounding community. In collaboration with four other comprehensive cancer centers, the responses will be analyzed to create specific strategies to increase appropriate cancer resources across vulnerable populations that are disproportionally burdened with COVID-19 and cancer.

The value of community-engaged research has been endorsed and recommended by many, but applied by very few. The mounting number of grants awarded to OCHECE is a testament to the concerns and awareness of the community. This project seeks to understand the needs of cancer survivors in the medically underserved populations by community engagement, as opposed to traditional research. Long-term community engagement is the direction to a greater reduction in cancer health disparities, as evidenced by the recipient of the 2020 Spirit of Collaboration Award.