Community Outreach and Engagement

UNMCCC Community Outreach and Engagement Office

Andrew Sussman, PhD, Associate Director for Community Outreach & Engagement

The Office of Community Outreach and Engagement (COE) serves as the critical bidirectional interface between all components of the University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center (UNMCCC) and a rich tapestry of community health system partners, sovereign Tribal Nations, Hispanic/Latinx populations, cancer community advocates, and patient support organizations.

The COE facilitates efforts to overcome cancer health disparities in our catchment area, the State of New Mexico (NM), as the focal point for engagement and communication between the UNMCCC and our catchment area communities. Major characteristics of our catchment area include its diverse multiethnic, multicultural, and rural population composition, primarily Hispanic, American Indian, and non-Hispanic white; persistent socioeconomic challenges including deep poverty and food insecurity; and access to health care challenges.

Specific Aims

Today’s COE, formalized in 2018, coordinates with and builds upon existing UNMCCC cancer surveillance and community-engaged initiatives. Within this context, COE proposes the following specific aims:

  1. define and characterize the catchment area,
  2. prioritize cancer-related needs through engagement and communication with all stakeholders,
  3. facilitate cancer research, and
  4. disseminate, implement, and evaluate multi-level cancer control strategies to reduce cancer burden within and beyond the catchment area.

Priority Areas

To accomplish these aims, the COE has convened two major partnering groups: the Community Advisory Board (CAB) and Tribal Advisory Council. Systematic engagement with these groups, other key stakeholder organizations, and UNMCCC leadership led to identification of the following priority areas:

  1. the fundamental burden of cancer health disparities,
  2. enhancing access to cancer care, including receipt of timely screening and treatment,
  3. reducing financial hardship associated with the continuum of cancer care,
  4. survivorship needs, and
  5. examining links between environmental exposures and cancer risk/incidence.

Roles and Impact

The COE is led by Andrew Sussman, PhD, MCRP (CCPS), with COE representation on the UNMCCC Protocol Monitoring Review Committee (Miria Kano, PhD (CCPS)), a Senior Program Manager, and four community outreach specialists possessing unique cultural and linguistic concordance to engage American Indian, Hispanic, and underserved communities.

COE major roles and impact include

  • integration of innovative cancer surveillance registries and data sources to facilitate catchment area monitoring and priority area assessment;
  • catalyzing impactful, culturally appropriate, and rigorous cancer control and care delivery research in all priority areas both within and beyond the catchment area;
  • dissemination of comprehensive statewide cancer control education, training strategies, and policy impacting recommendations; and
  • engagement with UNMCCC clinical trial components leading to high proportions of underrepresented minority accruals in research aligned with catchment area priorities.