This post is sponsored by AstraZeneca.
One of my favorite history of race and medicine books is How Cancer Crossed the Color Line, by Keith Wailoo. I remember reading it in graduate school and loved the way that it reframed our contemporary discussion of cancer disparities in a historical context. Wailoo’s book examines how beliefs about race become embedded into cancer diagnosis, treatment, and research, and how those beliefs have changed over time. Aside from the academic contributions, one of the reasons I like that book so much is that it helps explain why cancer seems to impact Black communities. I personally know many people who have battled cancer, some with greater success than others, and I’m sure you know a lot of people who have or have had cancer as well. But while we may know people impacted by cancer, and we may know the history of cancer disparities, there isn’t as much attention on the groundbreaking work being done around the world to address cancer care and reduce cancer disparities.
Every year for the past 4 years, AstraZeneca, in partnership with Scientific American Custom Media, has held the Cancer Community Awards (C2 Awards) as an opportunity to celebrate the people and organizations making a meaningful difference in cancer care—healthcare professionals, caregivers, scientists, advocacy groups, policymakers, and organizations working to improve cancer care, treatment, and outreach in the United States. As part of AstraZeneca’s YOUR Cancer program, the C2 Awards recognize recipients in five different categories: Catalyst for Change Award, Catalyst for Care Award, Catalyst for Equity Award, Catalyst for Precision Medicine Award, and the President’s Award. I was really excited when I got to meet a representative of this year’s Catalyst for Equity Award winner, The Center for Health Outcomes and Population Equity (HOPE) at the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah. The Center for HOPE was selected for this award by a panel of thought leaders across the cancer community, who recognized their innovative approaches to prevent cancer and improve cancer outcomes for primarily rural, Latino, and Native American communities in the frontier west.
I was able to speak with the Center for HOPE Director Dr David Wetter about how his personal, academic, and professional background prepared him for the work at the Center for HOPE, as well as why he believed that their work was so successful. David Wetter is a clinical psychologist (PhD), but like me, also trained at a school of public health, so I was curious about how the combination of his psychology and public health training shaped his approach to cancer care. Wetter told me that his MPH made him realize that he could make their impact and outreach but also collaboratively brainstorm solutions for the community.
Before coming to lead the Center for HOPE in Utah, Wetter led the Department of Health Disparities Research at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, so has previously worked closely with Black and Latino populations. Although the racial and ethnic makeup of the population of the Mountain West drastically differs from that of Houston, Wetter’s time in Texas taught him the value of tailoring community level cancer care to be culturally sensitive and appropriate, which is often done by engaging community stakeholders to co-create programs and initiatives.
Currently, the Center for HOPE is reducing inequity in cancer care through a variety of programs: smoking cessation, colorectal cancer screening, HPV vaccination, and even COVID care, which is not directly related to cancer, but has obviously placed a significant burden on both individual and community health. After meeting with David and learning more about the work the Center for HOPE does as well as its community and collaboration-centered approach to cancer care, I’m not at all surprised that they were selected for this year’s C2 Catalyst for Equity Award winner!
If you would like to learn more about the Cancer Community Awards and the winners in the other categories who are all redefining cancer care for all patients and communities, head to YourCancer.org