A Healthier Wisconsin

Cancer Disparities Curriculum for Research and Community Scholars

Establishing a novel curriculum aimed at reducing barriers between communities impacted by cancer disparities and the researchers studying the disease

Full Project Name:Cancer Disparities Curriculum for Research and Community ScholarsPrimary Community Organization:House of Grace Kingdom MinistryPrincipal Investigator:Carol Williams, PhD, Pharmacology and ToxicologyAward Amount:$1,010,889
Award Date
Project Duration:60 months

Project Description Narrative:

In Wisconsin, disparities in cancer incidence, late-stage diagnosis, and mortality are evident in different geographic regions of the state, and within Wisconsin's racial/ethnic populations. As part of a multi-faceted approach to reducing cancer disparities, the Research and Community Scholars program seeks to address misunderstanding and mistrust between community members and biomedical researchers.

Medical mistrust and misunderstanding plague community members and researchers, limiting participation in biomedical studies and constraining the development of new and relevant research questions. These conditions restrict the understanding of biomedical and social factors which influence cancer development and progression. The origins of mistrust in biomedical research have a long and tragic thread in American history due in part to overt racism, persistent institutional racism, and research ethics violations. Additionally, clinicians and biomedical researchers may have a poor understanding of the social determinants that give rise to cancer disparities as well as the reasons for and the structures and systems that sustain mistrust. To overcome biases and knowledge gaps, and to begin taking steps to repair the egregious errors of the past, researchers must understand a community or population from their vantage point, rather than solely through an academic lens. Equally important is for community scholars to have a voice in setting priorities to reduce the burden of breast and lung cancer in their communities.

Through this award, a community-academic partnership will develop and pilot an initiative that will bring together members of communities most impacted by cancer disparities with early-stage biomedical researchers. Together, they will participate in a curriculum to address mistrust in science and build a better understanding of the many factors that contribute to cancer disparities. The curriculum supports wide-spread sharing of this experience through local collaborative projects to further align cancer science and community priorities. This new nine-month curriculum will include individuals from community-based organizations in the Milwaukee Metropolitan area and early-career biomedical investigators studying cancer research at MCW.

Project Updates:

  • Developed scholar curriculum and piloted with a cohort of four community scholars and four research scholars in collaboration with 11 curriculum facilitators from the community and MCW
  • Conducted evaluation of the pilot implementation and refined application, recruitment and curriculum materials based on the findings with a focus on implementing ways to establish more meaningful relationships and collaborations between researchers and community scholars
  • Launched recruitment for the second cohort of scholars and preparing to launch the Alumni network following the conclusion of the first cohort of scholars
  • Leveraged $3 million to support a scientific-focused research network in cardio-oncology and disparities

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