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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Cancer Prevention Research at Maryland

The University of Maryland School of Public Health is home to multiple research and community outreach projects with a focus on cancer prevention.

The School of Public Health’s Dr. Sunmin Lee has received a $3.6 million National Institutes of Health RO1 award to address significant cancer disparities in Asian Americans. The study, titled “Culturally Adapted Multilevel Decision Support Navigation Trial to Reduce Colorectal Cancer Disparity among At-Risk Asian American Primary Care Patients” is being led by Dr. Lee, an associate professor in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics, who is the principal investigator. The research team also includes UMD School of Public Health faculty co-investigators Dr. Xin He (epidemiology and biostatistics) and Dr. Cheryl Holt (behavioral and community health). Cancer is the leading cause of death among Asian Americans, and colorectal cancer specifically is the second most common cause of cancer deaths for this group. The higher mortality rates could in part be attributed to substantially lower screening rates among Chinese and Korean Americans compared to other racial or ethnic groups. To get more people in for screenings, the team will conduct a randomized controlled trial among 400 Chinese and Korean American primary care patients. The trial will evaluate the patient adherence when they receive multi-level and culturally sensitive decision support interventions on colorectal cancer screening. “This is the first time a culturally-adapted decision support navigation will be used with Chinese and Korean Americans in primary care practice settings,” Dr. Lee said.

Drs. Stephen Thomas and Sue Passmore oversee the National Cancer Institute (NCI)-funded research component of the Maryland Center for Health Equity’s (M-CHE) Health Advocates In-Reach and Research (HAIR) program, an investigation into the use of barbershops as a venue to promote colorectal screening for the African American community. In partnership with Cigna, the HAIR program is now mobilizing a total of 15 black barbershops and beauty salons in Prince George’s County and Washington, DC for health promotion and disease prevention — including funding for five new shops added within the last year. African-Americans have the highest rate for new cases of colorectal cancer and are the most likely to die from it. Barbers and stylists are recruited and trained to provide health promotion activities to educate about colorectal cancer. Barbershops and salons that participate host periodic visits from genetic counselors who conduct family health history surveys, as well as public health and medical professionals who provide a variety of health screenings and referrals as needed for further screenings/care.

In addition, two School of Public Health researchers, Dr. Mary Garza, an assistant professor in the department of behavioral and community health and Dr. Lesliam Quirós-­Alcalá, an assistant professor in the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health, have new research focusing specifically on Latino University of Maryland employees working in residential, dining, and facilities management (e.g., landscaping, painting, plumbing). The goal is to identify the health needs, knowledge, attitudes, and behavioral factors associated with chronic diseases—including cancer—and to characterize and understand workplace and home exposures to environmental toxicants to inform future epidemiologic and intervention studies.