Reducing cancer disparities is at the heart of the University of Illinois Cancer Center.
The University of Illinois Cancer Center Community Engagement and Health Equity Office (CEHE) works to decrease cancer burden and increase access across the cancer care continuum. Our role is to:
- Build relationships with community partners
- Use community navigation best practices to increase access to cancer screening and cancer care
- Disseminate project outcomes to Cancer Center programs
- Advocate for policy changes that are responsive to the communities we serve
We achieve results through partnerships with UI Health, Mile Square Health Center, and more than 50 community and national organizations. Using an integrated population health and health disparities framework, our outcomes inform University of Illinois Cancer Center programmatic research.
University of Illinois Cancer Center 2020 Outcomes
Breast: Mile Square Accessible Mammogram Outreach and Engagement (Mi-MAMO)
The community engagement office partnered with UI Health, Mile Square Health Center (MSHC), numerous community partners, and the primary funder, the Chicago Department of Health to reduce barriers to services by providing free breast cancer screening services and patient navigation for under-resourced, underinsured, and uninsured women in our catchment area.
From 2017 to 2020, outcomes included:
- 2,115 completed or scheduled screening services (62% uninsured)
- 40% referrals for diagnostic follow-ups
- 30 patient diagnoses (63% uninsured)
- 10 patient clinical trial enrollments
Cervical: University of Illinois Cancer Screening, Access, Awareness, & Navigation (UI CAAN Cervical)
The community engagement office received grants from Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation (BMSF) and partnered with Humboldt Park Health and The Loretto Hospital to address high rates of cervical cancer and lower rates of cervical cancer screening and prevention in two Chicago West Side communities in our catchment area, Austin and Humboldt Park.
In 2020, UI CAAN Cervical outcomes included:
- 17 community events, engaging 857 people
- 39 Pap Smears
- 70 individual education sessions on cervical cancer screening and HPV
- 250 well-being checks (during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic)
Colorectal: University of Illinois Cancer Screening, Access, Awareness, & Navigation (UI CAAN Colorectal)
The community engagement office received grants from Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation (BMSF) to increase colorectal cancer screening and awareness in two communities in our catchment area, Chicago South Shore and Englewood. The program focuses on under-represented minority populations, including sexual and gender minorities.
UI CAAN Colorectal distributes fecal immunochemical tests (FIT) by partnering with community health workers, barbers, and beauticians to implement a community distribution approach of the tests.
In 2020, UI CAAN Colorectal outcomes included:
- 13 community events
- 2,059 community members reached
- 183 colorectal cancer screenings
Colorectal: Southside Colorectal Cancer Initiative (Mi-CARE)
The community engagement office received grants from the American Cancer Society and collaborated with UI Health, Mile Square Health Center (MSHC), Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation (BMSF), and other partners to increase colorectal cancer screenings on the Southside of Chicago in our catchment area.
Mi-CARE uses patient navigation to reduce barriers by providing targeted outreach, education, and fecal immunochemical test (FIT) kits.
In 2020, Mi-CARE outcomes included:
- 370 community members reached
- 158 FITs dispensed
- 99 FITs returned — 13 of which were positive
- 34 colonoscopies completed
- 20 abnormal colonoscopy results
Lung: Mile Square Adult Smoking Cessation (Mi-QUIT II)
The community engagement office received grants from the Chicago Department of Health and partnered with UI Health, Mile Square Health Center (MSHC), American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, and numerous community partners to reduce smoking among tobacco users in high risk community areas in our catchment area.
This was done through connections to personalized cessation services, including free smoking cessation counseling, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), and patient navigation links to services, such as the Illinois Tobacco Quitline and patient primary care providers.
In 2020, Mi-QUIT II outcomes included:
- 622 patients reached through 1-on-1 smoking cessation outreach
- 100 community members engaged through 2 community webinars
- 108 acceptances of smoking cessation counseling
- 93 patients referred to tailored smoking cessation support services
The University of Illinois Cancer Center Informs Research
The University of Illinois Cancer Center is a community-focused cancer center. Our community engagement team collaborates with researchers to provide real-world, actionable input about the patients we serve in our catchment area communities.
Between May 2020 and December 2020, the Community Engagement and Health Equity (CEHE) office received 15 results for research consultations or collaborations for community-engaged research initiatives.
Research consultation/facilitation outcomes included:
- 9 Cancer Center members
- 6 Cancer Prevention & Control
- 2 Translational Oncology
- 1 Cancer Biology
- 9 related to grant applications
- 2 NIH/NCI
- 1 NIH (Other)
- 2 Internal
- 1 Local
- 3 Industry
- 25 hours dedicated to consultation and completion of outcomes
CEHE Team 2020 Peer-Reviewed Publications
Asche, C. V., Watson, K., Baumgartner, M. G., Buscemi, J., Fitzgibbon, M., Simon, M., Winn, R., Henley, C., Glenn, J., & Hong, S. (2020). Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM) position statement: support increased knowledge and efforts to address the financial burden associated with cancer treatment. Translational behavioral medicine, ibaa073. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1093/tbm/ibaa073
Boodram, B., Kaufmann, M., Aronsohn, A., Hamlish, T., Peregrine Antalis, E., Kim, K., Wolf, J., Rodriguez, I., Millman, A. J., & Johnson, D. (2020). Case Management and Capacity Building to Enhance Hepatitis C Treatment Uptake at Community Health Centers in a Large Urban Setting. Family & community health, 43(2), 150–160. https://doi.org/10.1097/FCH.0000000000000253
Brewer, K. C., Peacock, N. R., Ferrans, C. E., Campbell, R. T., Polite, B., Carnahan, L., Jones, L. A., & Rauscher, G. H. (2020). Gender- and Race-Based Differences in Barriers and Facilitators to Early Detection of Colon Cancer. Journal of women’s health (2002), 29(9), 1192–1202. https://doi.org/10.1089/jwh.2019.8163
Hallgren, E., Hastert, T. A., Carnahan, L. R., Eberth, J. M., Mama, S. K., Watson, K. S., & Molina, Y. (2020). Cancer-Related Debt and Mental-Health-Related Quality of Life among Rural Cancer Survivors: Do Family/Friend Informal Caregiver Networks Moderate the Relationship?. Journal of health and social behavior, 61(1), 113–130. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022146520902737
Hamlish, T., Liu, L., Zhang, Z., Sohmer, D., Moton, Z., Johnson, D., Frolova, A., Olopade, O., & Hong, S. (2020). Care Coordination for Breast Cancer Survivors in Urban Underserved Communities: Will Treatment Summaries and Survivorship Care Plans Be Enough?. Journal of racial and ethnic health disparities, 7(3), 577–583. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40615-019-00687-5
Henderson, V., Tossas-Milligan, K., Martinez, E., Williams, B., Torres, P., Mannan, N., Green, L., Thompson, B., Winn, R., & Watson, K. S. (2020). Implementation of an integrated framework for a breast cancer screening and navigation program for women from underresourced communities. Cancer, 126 Suppl 10, 2481–2493. https://doi.org/10.1002/cncr.32843
Henderson, V., Madrigal, J. M., & Handler, A. (2020). A mixed methods study: Midlife African American women’s knowledge, beliefs, and barriers to well-woman visit, flu vaccine, and mammogram use. Journal of women & aging, 32(3), 292–313. https://doi.org/10.1080/08952841.2018.1549433
Johnson, A., Broughton, S., Aponte-Soto, L., Watson, K., Pinto, C., Empey, P., Reis, S., Winn, R., & Massart, M. (2020). Participatory Genomic Testing Can Effectively Disseminate Cardiovascular Pharmacogenomics Concepts within Federally Qualified Health Centers: A Feasibility Study. Ethnicity & disease, 30(Suppl 1), 167–176.
Lewis-Thames, M. W., Carnahan, L. R., James, A. S., Watson, K. S., & Molina, Y. (2020). Understanding Posttreatment Patient-Provider Communication and Follow-Up Care Among Self-Identified Rural Cancer Survivors in Illinois. The Journal of rural health : official journal of the American Rural Health Association and the National Rural Health Care Association, 36(4), 549–563. https://doi.org/10.1111/jrh.12414
Papautsky, E. L., & Hamlish, T. (2020). Patient-reported treatment delays in breast cancer care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Breast cancer research and treatment, 184(1), 249–254. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10549-020-05828-7
Papautsky, E. L., & Hamlish, T. (2021). Emotional Response of US Breast Cancer Survivors during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Cancer investigation, 39(1), 3–8. https://doi.org/10.1080/07357907.2020.1841220. Epub 2020 Nov 9
Strayhorn, S. M., Carnahan, L. R., Zimmermann, K., Hastert, T. A., Watson, K. S., Ferrans, C. E., & Molina, Y. (2020). Comorbidities, treatment-related consequences, and health-related quality of life among rural cancer survivors. Supportive care in cancer : official journal of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer, 28(4), 1839–1848. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-019-05005-7
Strayhorn, S. M., Lewis-Thames, M. W., Carnahan, L. R., Henderson, V. A., Watson, K. S., Ferrans, C. E., & Molina, Y. (2021). Assessing the relationship between patient-provider communication quality and quality of life among rural cancer survivors. Supportive care in cancer : official journal of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer, 29(4), 1913–1921. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-020-05674-9. Epub 2020 Aug 15
Tussing-Humphreys, L., Buscemi, J., Kanoon, J. M., Watts, E. A., Watson, K., Fitzgibbon, M., Jung, B., & Winn, R. (2021). Society of Behavioral Medicine Update: retain support for the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable’s call to action to reach 80% colorectal cancer screening. Translational behavioral medicine, 11(2), 656–658. https://doi.org/10.1093/tbm/ibaa044; Epub 2020 May 22.
Watson, K. S., Siegel, L. D., Henderson, V. A., Murray, M., Chukwudozie, I. B., Odell, D., Stinson, J., Ituah, O., Ben Levi, J., Fitzgibbon, M. L., Kim, S., & Matthews, P. (2020). The SHARED Project: A Novel Approach to Engaging African American Men to Address Lung Cancer Disparities. American journal of men’s health, 14(5), 1557988320958934. https://doi.org/10.1177/1557988320958934
Watson, K., Buscemi, J., Fitzgibbon, M., Murray, M., Murphy, A., Abern, M., Gann, P., Levi, J. B., Stinson, J., Diefenbach, M., & Winn, R. A. (2020). Society of Behavior Medicine (SBM) Urges Congress to Ensure Affordable Care Act Coverage of Prostate Cancer Screening Support Services for High-Risk Men. Translational behavioral medicine, 10(2), 492–494. https://doi.org/10.1093/tbm/ibz034
Dr. Wells and the navigation team changed my life with the smoking cessation support. I believe the program and the support was God-sent to improve my life and the health of my family.
Jonathan Mason, former smoker, speaking at the Nobody Quits Like Chicago town hall about his participation in a smoking cessation program run by the partnership of the University of Illinois Cancer Center and Mile Square Health Center
Take Action at the Cancer Center
Partnerships and Collaborations
The University of Illinois Cancer Center partners with UI Health/Mile Square Health Center, and more than 55 community and national organizations, to increase cancer screening and community engagement.
Become a Partner
We always welcome the opportunity to form new partnerships. Learn about how you can become a partner and work hand-in-hand with the CEHE to further your organization’s mission.
Download our recent reports to learn more about the differences that our partnerships have made in and beyond the communities we serve.
Christine Jonel Adley
Christine is an award-winning advocate, living on the south side of Chicago, devoted to her work as the Project Coordinator for the YAAS! Grant. Paired with her background and her comprehensive knowledge in patient advocacy, she is committed to promoting health equity and reducing health disparities, in underrepresented communities. She is a public speaker and aspiring author, committed to using her experience to serve as a driving force of change to others.
Leslie Carnahan, PhD, MPH, a health disparities population researcher, is a Research Scientist at the Office of Community Engagement and Health Equity at the University of Illinois Cancer Center and a Research Assistant Professor at the UIC School of Public Health in the Division of Community Health Sciences. Specifically, her work is focused on understanding how the quality, structures, and different levels (community-level, network, and interpersonal) of social factors contribute to differences in survival and quality of life outcomes among cancer survivors and caregivers. She is also engaged in evaluations for a number of cancer prevention and health promotion programs in Illinois. Dr. Carnahan’s research specialties include expertise in quantitative (survival analysis, latent class analysis), qualitative, and mixed methods, program evaluation, and community-engaged research.
Jeanette Santana Gonzalez
Jeanette Santana González is currently a Senior Research Specialist for the University of Illinois Cancer Center, Office of Community Engagement and Health Equity (CEHE). She currently serves as the Project Director for the University of Illinois Cancer Screening; Access; Awareness; Navigation (UI CAAN) project which is a community-focused cancer education, prevention, screening and navigation program aimed at addressing the elevated burden of cancer, specifically cervical and colorectal cancer among marginalized communities in the University of Illinois Cancer Center (UICC) catchment. In her role, Jeanette oversees day to day operation of the project team, partnership development and project administration.
Tamara Hamlish, PhD is a research scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a medical anthropologist conducting research on cancer survivorship research, an emphasis on cancer survivor experience and doctor-patient communication. Her research explores the critical role of survivor and co-survivor experiences for addressing disparities in cancer health outcomes and care across the cancer continuum, from prevention and screening to palliative care and hospice. She has also worked on multi-disciplinary teams to build healthcare capacity and workforce development for survivorship care in communities that experience structural and systemic barriers to high quality care.
Le’Chaun J Kendall
Le’Chaun Kendall, MPH is a Research Associate II and Project Coordinator. As a part of the Office of Community Engagement and Health Equity, Ms. Kendall supports an NCI K01 funded grant focused on breast cancer disparities research. Ms. Kendall is also responsible for data collection, analysis techniques, and administrative projects. Le’Chaun has co-authored multiple publications focusing on health disparities among African American.
Jessica M. Madrigal, PhD contributes to the team on a limited basis by providing analytic support to facilitate dissemination of existing evaluation projects. In March 2020, Dr. Madrigal transitioned to a position as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute where she is focused on GIS-based environmental exposure analyses/methods projects and epidemiologic risk analyses.
Nasima A. Mannan, MPH is an experienced public health specialist focusing on health education, health promotion, healthcare access and utilization in underserved communities. Nasima ardently unites policy makers, healthcare funders and providers, and community members in order to promote health equity for the most vulnerable populations. As a project director for multiple community-based cancer screening programs, Nasima develops and implements programs that address social determinants of health while providing access to care to underserved populations. Currently, she is the Senior Research Specialist and Patient Navigation Program Manager at the Office of Community Engagement and Health Equity at the University of Illinois Cancer Center.
Theresa Mobley is currently a Community Health Navigator for the University of Illinois Cancer Center under project UI CAAN (University of Illinois Cancer Screening; Access; Awareness; Navigation). Theresa works with theCancer Center community partners in the Austin Community, primarily The Loretto Hospital to help identify women who are in need of access to care including cervical cancer screenings. Theresa has a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work, with a minor in Women’s Studies. She is also a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) and has worked in the field over 20 yrs. with clients who have Substance Use Disorders.
Maria Olivero is currently a Community Health Navigator for the University of Illinois Cancer Center under project UI CAAN (University of Illinois Cancer Screening; Access; Awareness; Navigation). Maria works with University of Illinois Cancer Center community partners in the Humboldt Park, primarily Norwegian-American Hospital to help identify women who are in need of access to care including cervical cancer screenings. Maria has a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Northeastern Illinois University Chicago. She also holds a certification as a medical interpreter from Cross Cultural Interpreting Services. Maria has worked with community partners in the Latino Community for more than 30 years providing health education and community outreach. Maria’s goal is to try to educate Latinas women about the importance of cervical cancer screenings, a cancer that if detected early, is treatable.
Paola Torres is a Clinical Research Coordinator for the University of Illinois Cancer Center with a research concentration on breast, cervical, lung, and colorectal cancer. She is passionate about addressing health disparities and empowering communities with knowledge, expertise, and resources. Paola is also a graduate student in the School of Public Health and received a Bachelor’s degree in Community Health from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a double concentration in Health Education and Promotion & Health Planning and Administration.
Ana Williams, DDS, MHA, MPH is a Senior Research Specialist at the Office of Community Engagement and Health Equity at the University of Illinois Cancer Center. She is an experienced public health practitioner currently working as project manager implementing initiatives and interventions that promote best practices for health education and promotion in cancer prevention. Her passion and commitment to reducing minority health disparities increased after earning a Fulbright Scholarship to pursue her master’s degree in Public Health: Health Policy and Administration at UIC School of Public Health. Her professional goals include addressing the social determinants of health to promote health equity across the most vulnerable populations and communities.
Barbara J. Williams, MPH is currently a Research Specialist for the University of Illinois Cancer Center with a research concentration of colorectal health. She currently serves as the coordinator for projects UI CAAN (University of Illinois Cancer Screening; Access; Awareness; Navigation) and the University of Illinois Cancer Center Citizen Scientist Program working alongside community partners on the South Side of Chicago to engage and educate people in the community about the importance of colorectal cancer screenings and health. Barbara previously was the team lead for patient navigation in specialties of Breast, Cervical, Colorectal, and Lung health while working at Mile Square Clinic sites: Englewood, Main, and South Shore, as well as a Co-Facilitator of the Freedom from Smoking Program. As a Public Health practitioner, Barbara strives to create new strategies to address issues for better quality of care and education to prevent health disparities.