|A Conversation with...Dr. Sanya Springfield|
Dr. Springfield is director of NCI's Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities (CRCHD).
Why is the Cancer Health Disparities Summit important?
One of the core aspects of our work to address cancer disparities is collaboration - exchanging information and ideas and sharing research outcomes. It really is important that we foster a collaborative approach to attacking cancer health disparities because that type of strategy gives us the best opportunity to succeed. The Disparities Summit helps keep us all accountable. By coming together once a year, we are able to better assess our progress and identify and prioritize the challenges that remain. It is also a time to review and assess the strategies we are employing - a time to take stock and consider what is working and what is not.
What did this year's summit achieve?
I believe the summit helped reiterate the need for greater collaboration, drew attention to the need to develop partnerships within regions, and helped researchers think about their work in a broader context that may encompass working with other disciplines. As a result, we have a better handle on where we need to go and what we need to do to take this agenda forward.
Why do you think cancer health disparities are getting greater attention these days in the research community?
I think there is a realization that we all need to know more about cancer health disparities as part of our ongoing quest to learn more about cancer and its impact on society. I believe a growing number of researchers understand that with all the promise and progress in cancer over the years, especially in cancer prevention and cancer treatment, we cannot be satisfied with that progress unless everyone benefits from these advances.
What are some of the key initiatives of CRCHD?
Our principal initiatives include the Community Networks Program (CNP) and the Patient Navigation Research Program (PNRP). But these are part of a much larger portfolio that is divided into four key areas: Disparity Research, Diversity Training, Program Evaluation/Databases, and Communications and Dissemination.
For example, in our Disparity Research program, we have the Minority Institution/Cancer Center Partnership Program, in addition to the CNP and PNRP initiatives. The objectives of the Minority Institution/Cancer Center Partnership program are to increase the participation of Minority Serving Institutions in the nation's cancer research and research training enterprise; to increase the involvement and effectiveness of the Cancer Centers in research, research training, and career development related to minorities; and to develop more effective research, education, and outreach programs that will have an impact on minority populations.
Our Diversity Training portfolio houses the Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (CURE). Through this program, we strategically address each level of the biomedical research and educational pipeline to increase the pool of underrepresented minority candidates, emphasize scientific areas of greatest need, and expand and extend the period of training and career development. Given the increased emphasis of cancer health disparities, we need to attract more minority biomedical scientists into the cancer research field. In that regard, CURE has shown great promise and results over the years.