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NCI grant allows Massey to expand community outreach efforts

Debbie Cadet
Debbie Cadet, Ph.D.

VCU Massey Cancer Center was recently awarded a grant by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to support the expansion of Massey’s outreach initiatives through the NCI’s National Outreach Network (NON) Community Health Educator (CHE) program. NON is one of two multidisciplinary programs within the NCI’s Integrated Networks Program (INP) that connects at-risk and underserved communities with NCI research, training and outreach efforts through trained CHEs located at partnering research sites.

For the last five years, Massey’s NON-CHE has focused on Petersburg, Richmond and Emporia. The new grant provides $124,300 per year for two years to expand these outreach efforts into communities located around the East End of Richmond and Lawrenceville. Katelyn Schifano, Massey’s NON-CHE since 2014, will lead these efforts.

“When we initially applied for funding five years ago we completed a large needs assessment of the Crater Health District, which encompasses Petersburg, and we realized that the needs we identified aligned well with the goals of the NON-CHE program,” says Debbie Cadet, Ph.D., program director at Massey. “We set out creating partnerships and implementing programs we felt would make a difference in the health of the community, and I believe we can replicate in other communities some of the positive results we have achieved in Petersburg.”

In the last five years, health rankings in Petersburg have increased, with Petersburg moving up two spots in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation County health rankings. While this improvement cannot be solely and directly contributed to the NON-CHE’s efforts, increased partnerships among community organizations appear to be having positive effects on the health of the city.

“We have initiated a variety of programs and initiatives designed to improve community health, but one we plan to replicate is our Breast Health Research Champion program,” says Schifano. “This program trains breast cancer survivors, caregivers and other cancer advocates to motivate women within their own social circles to be screened for breast cancer, increase their understanding of cancer clinical research and bio-specimen collection, and increase awareness of local and national cancer resources in their community.”

Since the Breast Health Research Champion (BHRC) program’s inception, 23 trained BRHCs have provided current, evidence-based information about breast health, clinical trials and tissue donation to more than 2000 men and women. Using existing partnerships with Massey’s Cancer Research and Resource Center in Lawrenceville, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the Sister's Network of Virginia and the Richmond City Health District, the BHRC program will be adapted to focus on specific needs identified in Lawrenceville and Richmond’s East End.

“Our success depends on how well we listen to the needs of each community and engage other organizations already working to make a difference,” says Schifano. “We plan to develop community advisory boards and solicit input from our partners in order to ensure that we are establishing a foundation for sustainable and ongoing community education.”

Written by: John Wallace

Posted on: October 5, 2015

Category: Center news & funding