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Making Progress: First SPEECH Conference Held at Temple

News May 30, 2019

Eight poster award recipients pictured with National Cancer Institute Program Directors, SPEECH Partnership Principal Investigators, and Research Education Core Co-Leaders.

It’s only been seven months since Temple University, Fox Chase Cancer Center and Hunter College in New York were awarded a $13.5 million National Cancer Institute grant for SPEECH (Synergistic Partnership for Enhancing Equity in Cancer Health) yet much progress has been made toward the goal of reducing cancer health disparities in minorities and encouraging diversity in the field of cancer research. This became clear during the partnership’s first conference, held in late May at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine (LKSOM).

“We are excited. The conference gave everyone who has been involved in the grant the opportunity to gather together and share their work and research,” said Grace Ma, PhD, Principal Investigator of the grant and Associate Dean for Health Disparities — who also serves as Director of the Center for Asian Health, Laura H. Carnell Professor, and Professor of Clinical Sciences at LKSOM.

“Over the two-day conference, which included an external advisory board meeting, team leaders reported on their progress and accomplishments since launch,” Dr. Ma said. “This progress has been significant.”

Consider some of the accomplishments in Year One:

  • 52 new trainees have been recruited from all academic levels from Hunter College and Temple/Fox Chase Cancer Center— bringing the total number to 76 trainees (mentored by 47 faculty). The trainees have delivered 32 scientific presentations (three received awards) and have submitted 19 grant applications for cancer disparity research in underserved minority communities.
  • Three research studies have been launched looking at lung cancer in African Americans, liver cancer in the Asian- Pacific population, and colon cancer in African Americans.
  • Community core leaders have engaged community leaders, trainees and clinicians to work together to launch a regional liver cancer prevention campaign using social media, bus-route posters in Philadelphia, and community health fairs in New York City.

“These accomplishments are harbingers of what is to come in the next four years,” Dr. Ma said. “I firmly believe that together we will build roads to better cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment to reduce and eliminate cancer disparities in our underserved communities and to build diversity in the next generation of cancer researchers.”

The SPEECH conference attracted 170 attendees, including the Deputy Director and Program Directors of the National Cancer Institute’s Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities. Larry R. Kaiser, MD, FACS, The Lewis Katz Dean at the School of Medicine and President and CEO of Temple University Health System, and Michele Masucci, PhD, Vice President for Research at Temple University, welcomed attendees to the conference and commented on the importance of their work.

The keynote speaker, Amelie Ramirez, DrPH—Professor and Interim Chair of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Director of the Institute for Health Promotion Research at University of Texas
Health, San Antonio—inspired attendees with personal stories of her own journey to becoming a successful cancer health disparity professor and researcher.

In addition to numerous speakers, workshops and networking opportunities, the SPEECH conference also featured 48 posters presented by trainees.