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Staff include (L-R) Voncile Brown-Miller, manager, Community Outreach; Sara Kim, manager, Community-Based Research; Dr. Thompson; Knoll Larkin, director, Community Engagement and Outreach; Carie Francis, director, Community-Engaged Research Infrastructure; and Lezina Topciu, research assistant. Photo by Timothy Haunert

The Karmanos Cancer Institute at Wayne State University has opened a new office called the OCHECE (Office of Cancer Health Equity and Community Engagement). Karmanos launched this new Office on October 10th, 2018. This office is led by Hayley Thompson and their mission statement is “to hear the voices from different communities throughout our state to eliminate cancer health disparities in Michigan by promoting community-engaged research and supporting fair access to the full continuum of cancer care for all populations.” The research that will be conducted in this new office will go towards benefiting groups that show disparities among cancer research.

“You can see a lot of disparities in cancer. For instance, African Americans tend to be, in general, more likely to be diagnosed with cancer and more likely to die from cancer. That’s a disparity and that should not happen,” said Thompson.

Thompson has been studying the effects of disparity in minorities and low-income communities regarding specialized disease health care. There are fifteen cancer care sites that serve 46 states within the state of Michigan. This new office collects data from the cancer care sites and researches the needs within those communities. By getting more questions from despaired communities, Karmanos is able to better prevent cancer from becoming lethal within their patients.

Throughout Michigan, there are Cancer Action Councils that help come up with questions for the Karmanos Cancer Institute to focus on. Pastor Velma Jean Overman is a member of the group in Inkster. Since her husband’s family has a history of liver cancer, she wanted to see if genetics was a factor in developing cancer to better protect her children and grandchildren. As a member of a group that has suffered disparity in cancer research, she can say that Karmanos not only cares about her opinion, but values it significantly.

“Everybody’s opinion is valued and I think Karmanos appreciates that because when I spoke at the new office launching, the President of Karmanos also spoke. So that’s really telling me as an African American women, that when you speak on the same platform as the President of Karmanos, that they value what I have to say too.” said Overman.

 

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