Aligned Blog: Celebrating National Minority Health Month: Improving Health Through Culture, Communities and Connections

An image of diverse people holding hands in a spiral on a black background.

Image credit: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

By Brenda Adjei, Ed.D., M.P.A., Associate Director, Office of Healthcare Delivery and Equity Research

April is National Minority Health Month - a month dedicated to raising awareness about improving the health of racial and ethnic minority communities and reducing health disparities.

This year’s theme "Be the Source for Better Health: Improving Health Outcomes Through Our Cultures, Communities, and Connections" focused on the social determinants of health and cultural humility as important ways we can advance health equity.

As the Associate Director of CCR’s new Office of Healthcare Delivery and Equity Research, I am privileged to contribute to this month’s Aligned Blog and to be part of a team that is championing NCI’s commitment to inclusion in clinical trials. CCR is a critical part of the NCI’s effort to ensure that clinical studies include and benefit minority populations. We fully realize that overcoming barriers to clinical trial participation among populations that experience health disparities will require intentional efforts, partnership, and collaboration. Below are highlights of how CCR is striving to be the source for equitable cancer care through our diverse cultures, communities, and connections.

  • Dr. Cecilia Monge is an assistant research physician in CCR’s Thoracic and GI Malignancies Branch (TGMB). Her research focuses on the study of gastrointestinal cancers, particularly liver cancer, within the Hispanic community. Dr. Monge’s research includes a research initiative in Gastric Cancer within Latin America, aiming to comprehensively characterize this disease both clinically and genetically within Hispanic populations. She collaborates with the NCI Center for Global Health, where she is contributing to the development of future frameworks that emphasize equity and accessibility for clinical trials in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC), and informing cancer care for Hispanic populations in the US.
  • Dr. Ramya Ramaswami is a Lasker Clinical Research Scholar in the HIV/AIDS Malignancy Branch (HAMB) and an expert in the management of patients with Kaposi sarcoma herpesvirus (KSHV)-associated diseases and other HIV-associated cancers. Her research investigates ways to reduce cancer care disparities among people living with HIV by leveraging existing frameworks for HIV care. This work involves working with local patient navigators in community HIV clinics to present cancer clinical trial opportunities in a manner that is culturally responsive, linguistically appropriate, and meets the needs of the diverse patient populations and communities served.
  • Dr. Ismail Baris Turkbey is a senior clinician in the Molecular Imaging Branch whose research seeks to improve diagnostic outcomes for prostate cancer in African American adults by testing new imaging tools. Guided by initial discussions and connections with local community physicians, Dr. Turkbey’s work endeavors to engage a network of community providers and enhance capacity and access to high-quality diagnostic tools for men of African ancestry. 

The research conducted highlights examples of how we can address important research questions that aim to reduce cancer disparities in racial and ethnic minority communities. They also underscore the importance of diversity in clinical trials. The Office of Healthcare Delivery and Equity Research looks forward to being a resource to CCR in the design and implementation of collaborative initiatives to improve the experience of cancer care for our patients and engage our communities as partners to increase the reach, diversity and inclusivity in CCR clinical trials.

Aligned is a blog written by the Center for Cancer Research's (CCR) Office of Equity and Inclusion discussing diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) and highlighting various ways we can all be more involved in creating a more diverse scientific workforce. Learn more about CCR's commitment to inclusion.

Posted on Tue, 04/30/2024