Community Engaged Research and Implementation Science

The UI Cancer Center’s Office of Community Engaged Research and Implementation Science (OCERIS) is a unique population health program that employs an evidence-based approach to community engagement. The OCERIS team carefully investigates the needs of our community members and develops services based on those necessities. Patients are then navigated to those services to ensure positive health outcomes.

We are able to best serve the community by becoming a part of it. We do this by leading a strong network of internal and external strategic partnerships with local and national community and health organizations, non-profits, and public health administrations. These relationships offer a wealth of resources for medical and social support, financial and legal assistance, spiritual guidance, and in some cases, just another outlet for our patients to be surrounded by others like them, who are suffering from cancer. By collaborating with internal UIC departments, OCERIS is able to provide the most accurate collection of data to investigate each part of the community that is served. This translates to patients being aware of opportunities for clinical trials and access to cancer care that is so desperately needed.

With a $6.75 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the UI Cancer Center, in partnership with the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health and the University of Chicago, a unique project was established. CHER (Center for Health Equity Research) Chicago will advance health equity and understand the health risks – including cancer – associated with structural violence in underserved communities. CHER Chicago will delve into the effect structural violence has on health inequalities among African American, Latino, and Asian American populations (as well as their sexual minorities).

“Structural violence” refers to the multiple ways in which social, economic, and political systems expose particular populations to risks and vulnerabilities leading to increased morbidity and mortality. Those systems include income inequality, racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, sexism, ableism, and other means of social exclusion leading to vulnerabilities, such as poverty, stress, trauma, crime, incarceration, lack of access to care, healthy food, and physical activity.

CHER Chicago will initially focus on three research projects: how colorectal cancer risk in the black community correlates to experiences of racism; the relationship between stress due to racial discrimination and cardiovascular disease outcomes in Latino families; and examine the factors associated with mental health disparities among Asian immigrant populations.

This partnership between the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University’s Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center and Northeastern Illinois University will address cancer disparities through pilot research, education, training and engagement in the Chicago area.

Supported by a five-year $17.4 million National Cancer Institute U54 comprehensive cancer partnership grant, ChicagoCHEC (Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative) will: 

  • Establish transdisciplinary cancer disparities research programs in behavioral and social science, biomedical and translational science
  • Mobilize researchers, educators, community leaders, students, organizations and patients in innovative cancer education and community engagement programs to improve health outcomes among Chicago’s low-income, minority and disability communities
  • Provide training, mentoring and learning opportunities to recruit and retain minority and underrepresented students in health and cancer research careers
  • Support the career development and advancement of minority and underrepresented faculty and scientists

In 2017, ChicagoCHEC Community Health Educators led more than 100 community members on an educational tour of CECIL, the inflatable colon, which teaches individuals about colorectal cancer, screening, and the biology of disease – increasing knowledge, awareness and empowerment.

As part of the ChicagoCHEC (Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative) program of building a national model of a “community focused Cancer Center,” the UI Patient Brigade was created by patient stakeholders who reflect the diverse ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic groups in the Chicago area. Guided by principles of community-based participatory research (CBPR) and Patient Centered Outcomes Research (PCORI), the Patient Brigade was the inspiration of Patient Advocate Stephanie Carter-Logan, a three-time cancer survivor who received her care at the UI Cancer Center.

The UI Patient Brigade is comprised of cancer survivors, family of, or supporters of survivors.
Their vision is to move beyond engagement and usher in a new era of stakeholder involvement to ensure that the patients and communities that we serve have an active voice at the table regarding the UI Cancer Center’s research and community engagement initiatives.