Hope Leaders Program

The University of Illinois Cancer Center is thrilled to announce the second cohort of its innovative Hope Leaders program, which pairs community partners and cancer biologists to build genuine bidirectional relationships between scientists and communities.

The lab of Cancer Center member Andrei Karginov, PhD, will partner with Peer Plus Education and Training Advocates, and the lab of Cancer Center member Constance Jeffery, PhD, is paired with the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council.

The Hope Leaders program, run by the Cancer Center’s Office of Community Engagement and Health Equity, empowers community organizations to communicate the health needs of the communities they represent directly to Cancer Center researchers. Additionally, it allows researchers and their labs to engage community partners about projects that may ultimately benefit local diverse populations, while giving community partners opportunities to provide input about experimental design, processes and findings.

Hope Leaders Grant Awards

The community partner organizations each receive a $20,000 grant award spread evenly across two years. The cancer biologists are awarded $30,000 spread across two years with $20,000 in the first year.

The inaugural 2023 Hope Leaders cohort is currently comprised of the community organizations Equal Hope and Advocates for Community Wellness, along with Cancer Center members and researchers Ekrem Emrah Er, PhD, and Jun Sun, PhD.

More About 2024 Hope Leaders

Details about the 2024 Hope Leaders cohort are below.

Karginov Lab

With its Hope Leaders Award, Karginov lab member Alexander Krule, MD, will translate the laboratory findings of myeloid cell activation into a clinical study protocol aiming to evaluate the effectiveness of personalized lung cancer screening in the UI Health 55th & Pulaski Health Collaborative and other clinics. They hope that through this program and engaging with the community, it will enhance translational studies to corroborate findings in the laboratory, and also potentially pave a path where personalized lung cancer risk assessment can mitigate lung cancer screening and survival disparities.

Peer Plus Education and Training Advocates

Peer Plus Education and Training Advocates identifies underserved populations in the Midwest and provides culturally sensitive programs that address the multifaceted issues of people in need of essential health, educational and psychosocial services. Peer Plus believes the Hope Leaders program will bring science to the community, for the community, jointly shaping policies as well as social impact through meaningful input.

Jeffery Lab

With itsHope Leaders Award, the research goal of the lab and lab member Nicole Curtis, PhD, is to determine the protein features mediating the specific interaction between HK2 and PRKAR1a gene mutations in breast cancer. They hope to learn more about what contributes to cancer disparities in Cook County.

Brighton Park Neighborhood Council

The Brighton Park Neighborhood Council (BPNC) is an intergenerational community-based organization dedicated to equity and racial justice. Their mission is to improve the quality of life for the working-class and immigrant populations of Chicago’s southwest side through grassroots organizing and by providing free and accessible social services and quality programs to youths and adults. The group developed the Promotor’s de Salud program, a robust and successful community-based program focused on health education and connecting families to resources.

Video: Hope Leaders

To learn more about the Hope Leaders program, we invite you to please watch this video.

Contact Us

To learn more about our partnerships, contact the Cancer Center Community Engagement & Health Equity Office:

[email protected]

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