Associate Directors' Message: Reflecting on the 5th Annual Cancer Disparities Symposium

Last week, 230 attendees joined us virtually for the 5th Annual Cancer Disparities Symposium. Our two-day event, themed "Navigating Cancer Disparities: Lessons Learned and How to Move Forward," fostered conversation among researchers, clinicians, community outreach groups, patient advocates, trainees and key stakeholders from community-based organizations, local government officials, private foundations and commercial businesses—from across 23 states coast to coast and one country outside the United States.

Our Community Keynote speaker was Dr. Worta McCaskill-Stevens, Chief of the Community Oncology and Prevention Trials Research Group, which houses the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP). Her presentation focused on opportunities and challenges in partnerships between community and academic oncology, highlighting the need for innovative clinical trial design and analysis to reduce disparities and advance equity among underserved populations. Dr. Otis Brawley, the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Oncology and Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University, presented our Scientific Keynote presentation. Dr. Brawley's talk challenged us to consider the importance of increasing cancer prevention efforts and ensuring optimal basic health care for all to advance cancer control in the 21st century. These talks were complemented by engaging presentations on COVID and cancer, minority enrollment in clinical trials, the interplay of biology and social determinants of health in cancer, and a moving session on the personal, physical, and financial experiences of cancer. Our two-day event was topped off with a powerful panel discussion featuring speakers from earlier sessions as well as other national and local leaders in cancer disparities.

With our virtual format and two-day agenda, we were able to find new and creative ways to keep our attendees engaged. For the first time in our symposium history, we invited local high school students to attend our keynote sessions on both days, with a special follow-up session with Case CCC faculty and Community Advisory Board members. We also introduced a common reading, Just Medicine: A Cure for Racial Inequality in American Healthcare by Dayna Bowen Matthew, which was used as a starting point for small group discussions. Our attendees also made great use of our Whova app's features, using the Community board to connect and share ideas. Symposium presentations and materials are accessible on Whova for six months, and attendees are encouraged to view them as often as they like.

Given the collective emphasis that we turn our discussions into actions and sustain critical momentum developed over this two-day event, we have a firm commitment to develop milestones and achievements for the coming year in discussion with community partners and the Case CCC community advisory board. We plan to summarize the symposium discussion highlights, including how to foster trust, build communication, and promote cancer prevention to promote health equity for all persons.

It has been our honor to chair the Planning Committee for this symposium and deliver yet another compelling agenda to our colleagues near and far. We are particularly grateful to the support from our sponsors and the input from our Committee Members: Fred Schumacher, PhD;  Siran Kiroukian, PhD; Faye Gary, EdD, MS, RN, FAAN; Saad Sheikh; Faezeh Afsari; Kristina Austin, MEd, LISW; Chesley Cheatham, MEd, MCHES; Kimberly Sanders, MBA; Cheryl Davis, MPA, MPH; Angela Kaloush, MPH; and Lauren Coatoam. And finally, we appreciate the unending support from Case CCC Director Stan Gerson, MD; Deputy Director Alan Diehl, PhD; Associate Director for Administration John Pounardjian, and his dedicated team that executed yet another excellent event.

All attendees are encouraged to complete the following post-event survey to provide important feedback on the symposium. We will use your input to continuously improve the content and structure of our symposium!

Please continue to share ideas, form new collaborations and keep the momentum going. We look forward to seeing you all in March 2022 for the sixth Annual Cancer Disparities Symposium!

Jennifer Cullen, PhD, MPH
Associate Director for Associate Director for Cancer Population Sciences
Co-Director, Cancer Disparities Symposium

Erika Trapl, PhD
Associate Director for Community Outreach and Engagement, Case Comprehensive Cancer Center
Co-Director, Cancer Disparities Symposium