A Community-Driven Strategy
To understand catchment needs and provide guidance with respect to cancer-specific research and community outreach programs, Simmons established a community advisory board in 2019. The board comprises 25 ambassadors from diverse stakeholder groups who meet quarterly to enhance bidirectional communication with diverse communities across DFW to advance Simmons research and outreach programs and increase accrual of racial and ethnic groups under-represented in cancer clinical trials. To achieve the latter, they work closely with the Simmons Clinical Research Office to address barriers to trial participation by educating clinical and research staff about impediments and providing resources to overcome them.
One current initiative includes a program focused specifically on increasing the number and diversity of participants in our clinical trials. Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) funding for this program provides financial assistance for those facing barriers to access. In partnership with Simmons leaders, the advisory board also reviewed and awarded funding for two pilot projects focused on understanding telehealth barriers for seniors and the needs of cancer survivors with several comorbidities such as hypertension and diabetes. Our Research Advocate Program works alongside these programs to ensure that our research stays relevant to the needs of individuals living with cancer in our catchment area.
COEE outreach programs focus on delivering cancer prevention, screening, and diagnostic services to the underinsured and uninsured through mobile vans and free screening events. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office hosted virtual conversations with community leaders and members to understand how needs for cancer prevention, treatment, and survivorship shifted. These comments are guiding how we adjust our services so that everyone can benefit from Simmons research discoveries.
The COEE also collaborates with UT Southwestern Communications, Marketing, and Public Affairs to develop promotional materials for special events and campaigns, such as National Black Family Cancer Awareness Week and the Fit2Be Cancer Free Step Challenge.
NCI Designation Reaffirms Commitment to COEE
In September 2021, the NCI renewed Simmons Cancer Center’s comprehensive designation, reaffirming its place among the country’s elite cancer centers. The designation reaffirms the importance of Simmons’ emphasis on community engagement efforts to eradicate cancer disparities in Texas and beyond.
“When I think of our Cancer Center,” says Dr. Tiro, “four words come to mind: care, research, education, and service – we pursue excellence in all four.”
The COEE is just one of the many ongoing initiatives at Simmons Cancer Center to fulfill its mission to ease the burden of cancer through groundbreaking discovery, transdisciplinary research, impactful community engagement, education, and exceptional patient care.
Dr. Tiro and her team are thrilled to continue creating strategies to achieve Simmons’ mission of impactful community engagement through more community outreach in the near future.