Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz Delivers Keynote at Friends Symposium
On March 10, 2011, Friends of Cancer Research (Friends) hosted a symposium titled “Eliminating Breast Cancer Health Disparities: Communicating to At-Risk Populations.” Panelists included: Dr. Rachel Brem, The George Washington University Medical Center; Tesha Coleman, the Capitol Breast Care Center; Dr. Marc Hurlbert, Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Crusade; Dr. Christopher Masi, The University of Chicago; and Dr. Stephen Taplin, the National Cancer Institute. The event, supported by the Avon Foundation for Women and the George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates was held at the George Washington University Jack Morton Auditorium in Washington, D.C. The event drew members from across the cancer and health care communities to discuss how cancer centers, community health centers, advocacy organizations and government agencies can best disseminate information to at-risk populations.
After a welcome by GWU President Dr. Steven Knapp and Friends Chair Dr. Ellen Sigal, a keynote address was delivered by Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, (pictured above) a breast cancer survivor and outspoken advocate for prevention and early detection measures. “There have been so many advances in screening and treatment of cancer,” she stated, “but all of that is moot if women are not learning about their bodies, taking steps to reduce risk factors and getting regular and appropriate screening.” She used her own experience to highlight the need for education and awareness for those who may be at higher risk of developing breast cancer.
(L-R) Stephen Taplin, Christopher Masi, Marc Hurlbert, Tesha Coleman, Rachel Brem
Friends President Marlene Malek gave brief remarks and introduced the panel. Dr. Brem opened the discussion by introducing the panelists and summarizing actions that have already been taken to reduce disparities among at-risk populations and challenges still facing the community. Topics addressed during the panel discussion included how organizations are reaching out to at-risk populations, what government entities are doing to ensure all women have access to screenings and information, understanding the unique biological differences in breast cancer, how to engage diverse groups in clinical trials, and the impact of the United States Prevention Services Task Force recommendation to delay regular mammography screenings has had on the at-risk community.
Panelists agreed that a comprehensive approach, including studying women without cancer, is necessary in order to have to most impact on the whole of the cancer community. “If you don’t do research on all women…you’re not going to solve the problem in all women,” said Dr. Masi. The Avon Foundation’s Army of Women, a large volunteer group of women who have expressed interest in receiving information or participating in research studies, was cited as an example of engaging healthy women in clinical research.
Another prevalent topic of the symposium was the need for collaboration between all stakeholders in order to best reach those in the community. “I think it really is going to take all the parties to really come together to solve this disparity issue,” stated Dr. Taplin.
During the question and answer period, the panelists fielded a number of questions regarding linguistic barriers to minority participation in clinical trials, increasing the diversity of the medical workforce, and utilizing social media and technology to communicate with at-risk populations.
The recommendations developed throughout the symposium will be expanded upon in a future Friends of Cancer Research white paper.