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DF/HCC participates in Minority Cancer Awareness Week

In recognition of April’s National Minority Cancer Awareness Week (NMCAW), April 19-25, Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center’s Initiative to Eliminate Cancer Disparities (IECD) collaborated with community organizations to sponsor a variety of cancer awareness and prevention events throughout the Greater Boston community during the month of April.

National Minority Cancer Awareness Week, endorsed by the NCI, AMA, and ACS, promotes increased awareness of prevention and treatment among those segments of the populations at greater risk of developing cancer. The emphasis of the week is to give physicians, nurses, health care professionals, and researchers an opportunity to focus on high-risk populations and develop creative approaches to battling cancer problems unique to these communities.

Community engagement

Four Boston public libraries — Mattapan, Egleston Square, Hyde Park, and Upham’s Corner — hosted a display of public awareness posters created by the IECD to promote cancer prevention in minority and underserved populations. The IECD also partnered with several community health centers to provide local audiences with talks by informed speakers such as Glen Bubley, MD, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, who spoke on prostate cancer at the Bowdoin Street Health Center.

During NMCAW, the IECD’s faith-based Cancer Disparities Network engaged the community through a call for a week of prayer focused on those living with cancer. Participating churches also included a prayer card in their weekly bulletins.

IECD staff was on hand to bring cancer awareness and prevention information to the attendees at several area health fairs in April. At Harvard Medical School’s Reflection in Action, a community health forum for Boston and Cambridge 6th-9th graders, students played a health version of Jeopardy focused on saying no to tobacco. Additionally, IECD staff represented DF/HCC at the Alternative Health Fair and Health and Fitness Expo held at University of Massachusetts Boston.

“The IECD’s efforts related to community engagement and cancer prevention are hallmark to the issues of reducing the unequal burden of cancer”, said Karen Burns White, Deputy Associate Director for the Initiative to Eliminate Cancer Disparities. “We continue to be deliberate in our efforts to engage a variety of community stakeholders to bring forth and enhance the message on cancer prevention education.”

Training efforts

The IECD’s student training efforts kicked into high gear during the month of April. This year the Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (CURE) received over 100 applications for its 2009 summer program and will bring on 24 new students across the seven DF/HCC institutions. The CURE summer program commences on June 22 and the students’ scientific presentations can be seen on August 19-21 in Dana 1620 on the DFCI campus. Researchers may contact the IECD if they are interested in speaking to CURE students this summer about their research. 

The Cultural Competency Committee of the IECD has recently launched a new engagement with the pastoral care services and interpreter services across DF/HCC. The hope is to create training initiatives to assist in educating the research community around cultural competency in patient care. Representatives from each DF/HCC institution providing patient care are planning a variety of training activities. More information will be forthcoming.


The Associate Director of the IECD, Karen Emmons, PhD, was a recipient of a Harold Amos Faculty Diversity Award on March 11 at Harvard Medical School. The award was given at the Inaugural Howard, Dorsey, Still Lecture, named for the first three African Americans to graduate from Harvard Medical School, Edwin Howard (HMS 1869), Thomas Dorsey (HMS 1869), and James Still (HMS 1871), and recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to advancing the nation’s health. Emmons was unable to attend the ceremony so Karen Burns White of DF/HCC accepted the award on her behalf.

In conjunction with the New England Science Symposium (NESS), held on April 3, DF/HCC was excited to announce two new category awards: outstanding delivery of a cancer-related oral presentation and outstanding delivery of a cancer-related scientific poster. One award winner was chosen from each category. Each winner received a personalized certificate of recognition and a cash award.

The oral presentation award went to Lorena Mora-Blanco, currently a PhD candidate in the BBS program at Harvard Medical School, and working in the lab of Charles Roberts, MD, PhD (DFCI). Mora-Blanco studies the developmental functions of SNF5, a tumor suppressor protein that is inactivated in an increasing spectrum of cancers.

The poster presentation awardee, Maria Baquero, holds an MPH in environmental health and epidemiology and is now pursuing her PhD at Yale in the laboratory of David Rimm, MD, PhD, working on breast cancer markers to predict taxane response. 

Faculty development

The IECD and the Harvard Catalyst Program for Faculty Development and Diversity, Office for Diversity, and Community Partnership held the Fifth Annual Junior Investigators' Health Disparities Research Poster Session on Thursday, May 7. Fifteen posters were displayed at the session, which took place during the Harvard Medical School Office for Diversity and Community Partnership's 2009 Minority Health Policy Annual Meeting. Karen Donelan, EdM, ScD (MGH) reviewed abstract submissions and selected the final posters. The posters covered a broad range of topics related to understanding and eliminating health disparities and inequities.