“In graduate school, we are urged to publish in the most prominent journals and pursue prestigious fellowships. The number of peer citations or research dollars measures success. What is often absent is the consideration of how research affects everyday individuals. My experience with the woman at the poster session reminded me that I am not just doing research to become a known scholar in my field. I research for the sake of humanity. All researchers could use that reminder.”
Posted by Jen Cooper on Friday, September 29, 2017
By: Anika Jagasia
The life of a stereotypical intern can be summed up in one word – D I S O R G A N I Z E D.
When I think of the word internship, Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada immediately pops up into my head: her coffee runs, interactions between annoying co-workers, and writing hurriedly the myriad of tasks she had to do for Meryl Streep.
As the stream of anticipated worries continued to float around my mind, I plugged in the AUX and put on my go-to playlist. Spotify’s Good Vibes.
“Ma’am, do you need help, are you lost?”
I had to explain to the lady at the front desk that it was V I T A L that I not be late for my first day of my internship at Northwestern University’s Simon Laboratory where I would be assisting the Simon team.
After a mixed look of pity and sympathy, I stepped in the elevator and exited onto the 18th floor in front of two very heavy double doors. I grabbed one of the door handles, pushed it open, and was quite startled as both came apart with an unleashing amount of force, leading me to stumble back in surprise.
Five minutes later I was testing out how far back I could lean in my foamy office chair. Across from me sat my new cheery supervisor, Jen. While she explained the role of the Simon team–to promote health and healthcare equity for culturally diverse and underserved communities–she rattled off a few words I wasn’t familiar with. Uh oh. Inequities, Disparities, and Equity vs. Equality. After receiving a patient and thorough explanation I realized that some high schoolers like me don’t know these terms or the problems they entail.
…. Here is where my personal story ends and my post begins ….
The Knowledge Gaps
I want to share some major problems that are in healthcare and what I’ve learned from them during my time in the Simon Lab this summer. By the time you finish reading this article, you will enter the loop of knowing the health dilemmas at hand, know how to continue spreading awareness through educating others, and even be exposed to opportunities through which you may pursue your interest in promoting healthcare equity. Here are the basics that I will cover: health inequities, disparities, and equity.
The first thing to know in promoting health equity is…you guessed it…equity.
Some people may assume that equity is the same thing as equality. However, surprisingly, there’s quite a large difference. You and your friends are at a track, lined up and ready to race each other. You’re all pumped up and ready to go, but you look over and realize your friend Blue–on the inner lane–has the biggest chance of winning since they have the shortest distance to run. Everyone starting at the same starting line was equal–but equality did not yield a fair race. To be equitable would have been to accommodate everyone’s position on the track so that they would run the same distance. So, to make the race fair Person Blue, Red, and Yellow would start at different points on the track to run the same distance. This is the difference between equality and equity. To be equal is giving everyone the same resources without regards to what they need or where they are starting from. To be equitable is to give everyone resources that take into consideration their individual needs and providing resources to them accordingly.
Now, going back to my first meeting with Jen, I will introduce you to a main focus in the Simon Lab – Health Disparities. Even though my knowledge was a bit too simplified to totally understand everything that Jen was saying, I grasped the fact that cancer disparities are a HUGE problem, especially in Chicago. For a moment, with all the new lingo I felt like I was living in A Devil Wears Prada Moment. I [Anne Hathaway] was standing in front of Jen [Meryl Streep] who was saying all this important information, but I was struggling to write it all down, eventually, giving up because there was too much to write.
Before we get into the projects that I would be doing relating to cancer disparities, I first had to understand what a health disparity is in general. I will admit that it took a few days of being immersed in my internship and working on cancer disparity projects to grasp what health and cancer disparities are.
Simply, a health disparity is a condition where there is a higher risk for Group A compared to Group B. I learned that it used to be believed, and sometimes still is, that it was biological or had to do with genetics. Unfortunately, the problem is more complicated than that in most cases. There are a myriad of factors that negatively affect groups of people: socioeconomic status, gender, age, disability, geographic location, and more.
It wasn’t until about 1980 that statistics showed that the average life expectancy for the US had grown by 25% to 75 years. While life expectancy was improving, minority groups faced shorter life expectancy, higher rates of cancer, diabetes, strokes, substance abuse, infant mortality, and lower birth weights. (To see some Cancer Disparities-specific statistics see the bottom of this post!)
A Call to Action to Improve Health Inequities – An Argument for Education
We need education. Truthfully, I was surprised to see how the issue of health disparities is so pressing, and – in high schools … my high school – it is not a common subject or element of most curriculum. But, we can’t blame our schools. I haven’t been exposed to many articles in the news talking about health disparities, or seen segments about it on TV, or read about it in magazines/newspapers. Is there enough current news on health disparities out there? Should we put out more articles on the topic to spread awareness? Regardless, we can do more to educate, especially the younger generation. Educating future generations about our battle with cancer disparities is one of the most effective methods we can use to put our foot down on these inequities. We need to offer opportunities to learn about persisting issues, which will inevitably be training our future generations how to tackle healthcare problems. Students as young as middle school need to learn about the persisting issue, so the future for cancer disparities doesn’t have to look so grim. As a result from the education and training individuals will receive, the level of community engagement will increase, and awareness will spread.
We – students – need to be engaged in our education and our careers. When I found the organization called CURE — an organization within the National Institutes of Health — I was wowed by how they took the future in improving cancer disparities to a new level. CURE’s mission, like many others, is to offer career development opportunities to strengthen and diversify the field of cancer disparities. The unique part of the organization is that students as young as middle school, high school, and even undergraduate students can work alongside scientists. How cool is that? This is where we see the step 2 and 3 involved–training and community engagement–and CURE incorporates all 3 Not only do they engage a community, but include the whole nation! CURE understands that training the future generations is important and they are spreading awareness by offering these amazing opportunities for kids. Students can even have a mentor scientist or researcher!
We need more organizations to follow in ChicagoCHEC’s footsteps to help advocate for healthcare as a whole. Without organizations like ChicagoCHEC, health inequities would remain an issue, and perhaps proliferate into chaos.
So, what do you say, will you join in changing the future of cancer disparities?
Anika Jagasia is a rising Senior at Latin School of Chicago. She worked in Dr. Melissa Simon’s Lab at Northwestern University – a lab focused on health inequities and social issues for underserved, low-income individuals – for the summer. Anika plans to attend college in the Summer 2018, with an interest in the Sciences. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect the views of Latin School of Chicago, Northwestern University, or ChicagoCHEC. Check out Skinny Trees Podcast: An Exploration of Health Inequities in & around Chicago in for an interview conducted by Anika with Dr. Joe Feinglass, a health services researcher, Professor, and long standing social activist.
A Healthier Back of the Yards: Increasing Services to Decrease Violence
By: Angel A. Jimenez
Shootings, death, and drugs: this is how Back of the Yards is portrayed in the media. There is a widely shared opinion that my community does not want to be helped, does not want to change, and is always looking for trouble. The Back of the Yards community is located in the south side of Chicago, which was once home to the Chicago Union Stockyards, most notably known because of The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair. Back of the Yards was home to Germans, Irish, and Czechs in the 1870s. Later, Poles, Lithuanians, and Slovaks would become the majority. Small numbers of Mexican immigrants arrived during the 1920s and World War 1. By the 1970s, when the Union Stockyards were closed, the community was primarily Mexican with a minority of African Americans. Today the Back of the Yards suffers from economic decline, social inequality, poor housing, and poor working conditions in nearby factories.
In a recent study conducted by the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, 369 people from my community were asked three questions: What are some mental health concerns you have? What are some barriers that are faced? Would you consider receiving emotional support? In this survey, it was found that some of the most prevalent concerns are depression, anxiety, isolation, and trauma. Furthermore, some barriers that were mentioned are the cost of health services, lack of insurance, language, stigma, and the lack of accessible services. Finally, 80% of those who were surveyed said that they would consider receiving emotional support if it was available in the community. I believe this survey shows that my community wants help, is not looking for trouble, and wants change to happen.
It is very easy to point fingers and blame the violence in my community on the people that live there, however we – the residents of Back of the Yards – would like some answers. I noticed that several helpful community resources have recently been closed. Why was the mental health clinic closed? Why was the Healthcare Alternative Systems (HAS) organization’s office, which provided help to victims of domestic violence, anger management services, youth outreach, and many other services needed in the community, closed? Why do schools have to look for grants in order to better help the children in my community who suffer from various mental and emotional stresses? We ask for support and oftentimes are ignored and told that more police will help reduce the violence in the community because that is the biggest problem. The violence in the community does affect us and the trauma affects every part of our lives, but we also aren’t able to provide the appropriate support to help people deal with grief, anxiety, fear, and depression, among other mental health issues. In my opinion, that is the biggest problem in the Back of the Yards.
Fear and anxiety can make us do things that we cannot understand. Mental health institutions and organizations like HAS exist to help people learn how to cope with their fears and manage anger and stress. Recently, the Donald Trump administration’s immigration policies have incited a newfound level of anxiety and fear in the community. Not to mention, in the beginning months of this year, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents were present in the neighborhood. People were afraid to leave their homes and did not feel comfortable participating in routine, everyday activities such as grocery shopping.
Mental health is not being properly addressed in the community and the effects are plaguing its residents, mostly youth. Around 34% of residents in the Back of the Yards are below the age of 19. An article I read for my biology class explained how poor mental health in children can be especially toxic. It can hinder their brain development and can also hinder their academic success in school. Sometimes children find themselves lost, not knowing where to go. As a result, they decide to find a new family on the streets. Children live out the stress and anxieties of their parents and they do not know how to work through and process everyday stressors.
Call to Action: Creating a More Positive and Healthy Future
If our aldermen would provide funding for programs in schools and churches and create or re-open more programs focused on mental health, like HAS, we could provide a safe and nurturing environment for parents and children. More programs that are aimed at youth will help them transition from childhood to adulthood in an environment void of depression, anxiety, or grief. This will also equip our youth with the skills necessary to identify their feelings and develop a toolbox of strategies that they can use to help themselves and others. Then, when our youth get older, they can continue helping the generations that follow. There are already some existing programs in the neighborhood that are trying to help teens, but they are not able to help everyone. They require more funding, people, and space to be able to reach more families.
Before judging Back of the Yards solely on what is shown on television, I invite you to come visit us. Learn about our struggles, our fears, and sorrows, but also learn about the programs and people already making a difference in our community. Help us by committing time to our neighborhood. Bring workshops on mental health, share information with schools and institutions in the community, or help us develop and fund programs for our youth and families. Back of the Yards should not be known for its shootings and violence, it should be known for its resilience and its work towards creating a more positive and healthy future.
For more information about the Back of the Yards, please visit the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council website: http://www.bync.org/
My name is Angel Jimenez. I am currently a sophomore at Whitney Young Magnet High School. I am a member of the Holy Cross/IHM Marimba Ensemble which is a group for youth from the Back of the Yards community, who are interested in music. The program was created in the early 90s to bring youth together through music. Each generation of marimba players learns music by ear and are taught by former marimba players. We volunteer our time and play at various events in the Chicagoland area. I am also entering my second year in UIC’s Medicina Academy Apprentice Program which guides and supports high school students in pursuing a career in medicine through seminars about college, medicine, inter/intrapersonal activities, and career opportunities in the healthcare field. I am interested in becoming a physician and possibly applying my love for music by exploring a career in music therapy and medical research.
Join ChicagoCHEC and the UI Health Cancer Center at one of Chicago’s largest Back-to-School events – providing FREE Back packs and school supplies, immunizations and physicals (bring records), Social Service information around employment, education, insurance, immigration and housing, Hair-cuts and a BLOCK PARTY KidZone with bouncy houses, carnival games, candy, music and FUN!
Continuing in the spirit of six earlier meetings organized by the ISI Committee on Risk Analysis (ISI-CRA) of the International Statistical Institute, this year’s conference focuses on Cancer-Related Risk Analysis.
The format for the meeting will include plenary talks, organized sessions, and sessions with contributed talks and posters. The conference includes keynote presentations by world-renowned scientists. Students are encouraged to enter a poster competition and present their projects to conference attendees. There are no events scheduled simultaneously so you will not miss anything. A Gala Dinner will be held on Thursday, May 4th and will feature a keynote presentation, a student poster award ceremony and live entertainment.
The ICRA7 will be followed by NEIU’s 10th Workshop on Mathematical and Statistical Modeling, which will begin at 1:00PM on Friday, May 5th, 2017 and continues through Saturday, May 6th, 2017 at Northeastern Illinois University’s Main Campus. For general conference information please email[email protected].
To learn more about the event, please visit the website.
Posted by Jen Cooper on Thursday, December 15, 2016
Events, Funding Opportunities, Calls for Paper and other Resources are all your fingertips in the monthly bulletin provided by the Alliance for Research in Chicagoland Communities (arcc), a program from Northwestern University’s Center for Community Health.
Posted by ChicagoCHEC on Tuesday, December 6, 2016
We are excited to announce that the ChicagoCHEC Research Fellows program is now accepting applications! This program is geared toward first-generation and underrepresented minority students interested in health or research careers. Apply soon – deadline for applications is February 15, 2017.
About the ChicagoCHEC Research Fellows Program
The ChicagoCHEC Research Fellows Program is a comprehensive learning experience for undergraduate and postbaccalaureate students at Northeastern Illinois University, University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University, City Colleges of Chicago, and other Community/ Junior Colleges in the Chicago metropolitan area. We are seeking outstanding undergraduate and postbaccalaureate students with an interest in health and health care who possess the commitment to apply to graduate or medical school and can bring diverse perspectives and experiences to advance the nation’s work toward cancer health equity. ChicagoCHEC Research Fellows will spend the summer in seminars and research rotations learning from leading scientists. Following the summer intensive program, ChicagoCHEC Research Fellows will have the option to be matched with a research mentor and research project during the academic year.
Application Deadline: February 15, 2017
June 19 – August 11, 2018: summer intensive experience
Fall 2017: optional research team placement
Want to learn more about health equities in your city? Do you enjoy podcasts? Check out Skinny Trees, a podcast born out of ChicagoCHEC that aims to continue the conversation about health equities in and around Chicago.
To learn more, check out www.skinnytreespodcast.com. Episode 1 features Dr. Melissa Simon, ChicagoCHEC Northwestern University Principle Investigator, discussing how to decipher the nuances of health equity language.
Posted by ChicagoCHEC on Friday, September 30, 2016
We are excited to announce that our ChicagoCHEC Incubator and Catalyst Funding Program’s 2016-2017 Request for Proposals is now open. One of the most important needs for growing an idea is early stage funding. Do you need seed funds to take your cancer disparities project to the next step? The ChicagoCHEC Research Incubator / Catalyst Funding Program supports transdisciplinary cancer disparities research in behavioral and social science, basic, biomedical, and translational science. These awards are intended to foster cross-institutional collaborations among investigator teams from NEIU, UIC, Northwestern, and community partner(s). ChicagoCHEC funding opportunities consist of:
Partnership Development Incubator Grants: 1 year seed funding of up to $40,000 to jumpstart partnerships to develop research across the three institutions and with community partners.
Proposal Development Incubator Grants: 1 year seed funding of up to $40,000 to help teams progress from partnership phase to proposal writing phase.
Pilot Project Catalyst Grants: awards of up to $120,000 per year for 2 years across the three institutions and community partner(s).
This is a unique funding opportunity that requires involvement from all three institutions (NEIU, UIC, Northwestern) and a community stakeholder. ChicagoCHEC offers help linking interested people with potential collaborators across institutions and communities.
A pre-proposal consultation meeting with ChicagoCHEC is due December 15, 2016 and applications are due January 15, 2017. For more information please see the Request for Proposals or email [email protected]
The ChicagoCHEC Catalyst & Incubator Grant Program is pleased to announce the 2016 grant recipients. All investigative teams have proposed novel approaches to addressing cancer disparities and are devoted to advancing cancer health equity through cross-collaboration, high-quality research and unwavering dedication to training and education. It is anticipated that all projects supported by the ChicagoCHEC Catalyst & Incubator Grant Program expand to become larger, long-term grants such as R01s.
Project 1 (Partnership Development Grant):
Reducing Colorectal Cancer Disparities on the South Side of Chicago through Cross-Institutional Collaboration
Principle Investigators: Danielle Lazar, AM, DrPH Candidate (Access Community Health Network), Kenzie Cameron, PhD (Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University), Hardik Marfatia, PhD (Northeastern Illinois University), Shan Wang, PhD (Northeastern Illinois University), Kameron Matthews, MD, JD (University of Illinois Chicago), Karriem Watson, DHSc (University of Illinois Chicago)
Project 2 (Proposal Development Grant):
Community-Engaged Obesity Intervention Development for Puerto Rican and Mexican Men
Principle Investigators: Lisa Sanchez-Johnsen, PhD (University of Illinois Chicago), Magdalena Nava, BA (Puerto Rican Cultural Center), Leonilda Calderon, BA (Puerto Rican Cultural Center), Amanda Dykema-Engblade, PhD (Northeastern Illinois University), Alfred Rademaker, PhD (Lurie Cancer Center)
Project 3 (Pilot Project Catalyst Grant):
Prostate Cancer Disparity in Chicago-Area African American Men: Patient-derived Models and Biomarkers of Cancer Risk
Principle Investigators: Larisa Nonn, PhD (University of Illinois Chicago), Sarki Abdulkadir, MD, PhD (Lurie Cancer Center), Cindy Voisine, PhD (Northeastern Illinois University), Adam Murphy, MD (Lurie Cancer Center / Jesse Brown VA), Marcus Murray, BA (Project Brotherhood)
The Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative (ChicagoCHEC) is a National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer partnership led by the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, Northeastern Illinois University, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Our mission is to advance cancer health equity through meaningful scientific discovery, education, training, and community engagement.
On June 20, 2016, the Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative (ChicagoCHEC) kicked off their inaugural Summer Research Fellows Program — a comprehensive, paid eight-week summer learning experience for undergraduate and post-baccalaureate students from Northeastern Illinois University, Northwestern University, University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), and the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC).
Focused on developing academic, technical, and professional skills, the Fellows Program will help prepare a new generation of leaders for careers in social, behavioral and biomedical research, and in healthcare. ChicagoChec Research Fellows will gain important knowledge, skills and networks through immersion experiences, group projects and journal clubs. In addition, one-on-one, group, and near-peer mentoring will guide their progress in becoming researchers and healthcare professionals who can bring diverse perspectives and experiences to advance the nation’s work toward cancer health equity. At the conclusion of the program, Fellows will have learned fundamental research practices and methodologies, pertinent research content topics (e.g. cancer inequity and recruitment of underserved minorities in clinical trials), social contexts for health inequity across the cancer continuum, and critical professional development practices and networks.
The Summer Research Fellows Program leverages the expertise of the scholars, cancer researchers, health professionals, and institutional and community leaders who participate as guest lecturers, project mentors, and site visit hosts. According to the physician-scientists and researchers who lead ChicagoCHEC — Northwestern University’s Melissa Simon, MD, MPH, UIC’s Robert Winn, MD, and Northeastern Illinois University’s Christina Ciecierski, PhD, and Moira Stuart, PhD — the program provides an opportunity to do things differently than they’ve been done in the past. That is, to move the needle on health equity by expanding opportunities to the next generation in a way that changes the architecture of collaboration, community engagement, and the culture of research education.
“The Summer Research Fellows program is a first-of-its-kind program to advance research, leadership, and community-engagement capabilities in this high-potential group of first-generation, underrepresented minority and non-traditional college students,” said Simon, the George H. Gardner, MD, Professor of Clinical Gynecology in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Co-Leader of the Lurie Cancer Center’s Cancer Control and Survivorship Program. “The interest in ChicagoCHEC’s first program was so great that we were inspired to create an Affiliates Program as a pipeline for participants in the future.”
Funding support for ChicagoCHEC is provided by the National Cancer Institute (grants U54CA202995, U54CA202997, and U54CA203000).
The Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative (ChicagoCHEC) is a National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer partnership led by the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, Northeastern Illinois University, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Our mission of ChicagoCHEC is to advance cancer health equity through meaningful scientific discovery, education, training, and community engagement.
We have some exciting undergraduate cancer research internship opportunities planned for this summer! The program is geared toward first-generation and underrepresented minority students interested in health or research careers. Apply soon – deadline for applications is February 29, 2016.
About the ChicagoCHEC Research Fellows Program
The ChicagoCHEC Research Fellows Program is a comprehensive learning experience for undergraduate and postbaccalaureate students at Northeastern Illinois University, University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University, and City Colleges of Chicago. We are seeking outstanding undergraduate and postbaccalaureate students with an interest in health and health care who possess the commitment to apply to graduate or medical school and can bring diverse perspectives and experiences to advance the nation’s work toward cancer health equity. ChicagoCHEC Research Fellows will spend the summer in seminars and research rotations learning from leading scientists. Following the summer intensive program, ChicagoCHEC Research Fellows will have the option to be matched with a research mentor and research project during the academic year.
Application Deadline: February 29, 2016
June 20 – August 12, 2016: summer intensive experience
Fall 2016: optional research team placement
Since our official launch in October of 2015, ChicagoCHEC has been a buzz of activity, as we launched out the gate to transform our many ideas into reality. We are excited to have this incredible opportunity to move the needle on health equity, and we want all of you at the table. Keep an eye out in this space as we continue to roll out new programs, opportunities, resources, and ways to engage. (we only ask that you bear with us as we grow!)
Welcome to the Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative (ChicagoCHEC) blog! What is ChicagoCHEC, you might ask, and why are we blogging?
ChicagoCHEC is a comprehensive cancer partnership led by Lurie Cancer Center of Northwestern University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Northeastern Illinois University. Our mission is to advance cancer health equity. We strive to do so by way of meaningful scientific discovery, education, training, and community engagement.
Advances in cancer health equity take creativity, out of the box ideas, active community voices, and an open exchange of ideas and practices.
We intend for this blog to support the work of the ChicagoCHEC community and to create a safe space for everyone to share ideas. We hope this blog will stimulate new thinking and lively discussions as we share our ongoing work toward cancer health equity. Whether you’re a faculty member, student, staff, or community member, we welcome you to join this dynamic learning space.
What can you expect to see here?
ChicagoCHEC faculty, staff, students, guest bloggers and other creative thinkers commenting on the latest scientific and healthcare advances, their projects, activities, and anything under the sun
Information about resources
Research, training, and community engagement opportunities
Our doors are wide open to ideas. We want this blog to foster interactions with a broad community of thinkers and doers. We invite you to contribute your ideas to help make this blog timely, lively, and a place where we can all learn together. Ready, set, go!