This year’s Cancer Summit to focus on racial disparities

By Robin James

Contributing Writer

The 2013 “Cancer Disparities Summit: Working Together to Find Solutions” will be held June 19-20 at the Minneapolis Marriott Southwest in Minnetonka. The aim of the summit is to provide attendees with knowledge about disparities existing in cancer screening, treatment and mortality, as well as to educate participants about ways in which they can improve cancer prevention, treatment, and survivorship.

In addition, attendees will learn more about strategies aimed at addressing cancer disparities within communities across Minnesota, and lastly, to understand how they can participate in a variety of initiatives aimed at reducing cancer disparities throughout the state. Invited guests include medical/public health professionals, community-based organizations, researchers and students.

Finding out about access to high-quality health care and social-support options will no doubt be topics of interest at the summit. The MSR arranged an email interview with Heather Hirsch (HH), the conference chair, to discuss the upcoming 2013 Cancer Disparities Summit.

Dr. Otis W. Brawley, M.D., F.A.C.P., and Dr. Kate Wolin Photos courtesy of the  Minnesota Cancer Alliance
Dr. Otis W. Brawley, M.D., F.A.C.P., and Dr. Kate Wolin
Photos courtesy of the
Minnesota Cancer Alliance


MSR: Is this an annual event, or is this the first event of its kind held in Minnesota?

HH: The Minnesota Cancer Alliance (MCA) holds an annual cancer summit. This year, the Minnesota Center for Cancer Collaborations (MC3) at the University of Minnesota partnered with the MCA to host a summit focused on cancer disparities. This is the first time that the coalition has focused the annual meeting on addressing cancer disparities.

There was a diverse planning committee that identified the keynote speakers, Dr. Otis Webb Brawley, MD, FACP and Dr. Kate Wolin, ScD, FACSM. It recruited a diverse group of breakout session presenters, research posters and programs, and crafted what stands to be a great program.

The MCA is a coalition of over 100 organizations from diverse backgrounds and disciplines dedicated to reducing the burden of cancer across the continuum from prevention and detection to treatment, survivorship and end-of-life care. Our members include public-health and healthcare organizations, cancer centers, culturally diverse organizations, researchers, nonprofit organizations, cancer survivors, caregivers, and advocates. The MCA website has more information about the coalition. [see below]

MC3 is dedicated to reducing cancer health disparities experienced by racial and ethnic minority populations in Minnesota with an initial focus on Minnesota’s growing new immigrant and refugee populations. To achieve this aim, MC3 focuses on cutting-edge research and community engagement with strong emphasis on community-based participatory research.

MSR: In your own words, what outcomes are you hoping for as a result of having the Summit?

HH: The Cancer Summit offers an opportunity for organizations and individuals to come together to learn more about what is being done and what is still needed to work together and find solutions to address disparities that exist in cancer prevention, screening and survivorship in Minnesota.

The program goal is to provide Summit participants with a chance to learn about disparities that exist in cancer screening, treatment and mortality; to educate participants about how they can improve cancer prevention, treatment, and survivorship; and to understand how they can participate in initiatives aimed at reducing cancer disparities throughout Minnesota.

MSR: Is there anything else of importance that you may want our readers to know about the Summit?

HH: We are offering a grant-writing workshop to participants that attend the Summit. This is an additional meeting, offered on a first-come, first-served basis. In this half-day workshop, participants will learn how to utilize strategic research techniques and smart marketing methods in order to narrow the prospect focus.

[They will also learn to] avoid the common pitfalls of grant writing — the mistakes that drive foundation program officers crazy and make programs look inexperienced, [to] apply the “Three C’s” to writing to ensure its readability, and [to] construct a sturdy framework in order to articulate goals, objectives, activities, outcomes, and evaluation methods.

We welcome community members and community-based organizations that are interested in learning more about cancer disparities and networking with organizations and individuals working in this field. There are a limited number of scholarships available to attend the summit. Organizations that would like to apply for one can indicate this on their registration form.


The Summit keynote speakers include Dr. Otis W. Brawley, M.D., F.A.C.P., chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, and epidemiologist Dr. Kate Wolin, ScD, FACSM. As the chief medical and scientific officer and executive vice president of the American Cancer Society, Otis Webb Brawley’s responsibilities include the promotion of the goals of cancer prevention, early detection, and quality treatment through cancer research and education.

His efforts include decreasing smoking, improving diet, detecting cancer at the earliest stage, and providing the critical support cancer patients need. Dr. Brawley also guides efforts to enhance and focus the research program, upgrade the society’s advocacy capacity, and concentrate community cancer control efforts in areas where they will be most effective.

In addition, as an acknowledged global leader in the field of health disparities research, he is a key leader in the society’s work to eliminate disparities in access to quality cancer care. Currently, Dr. Brawley serves as professor of hematology, oncology, medicine and epidemiology at Emory University. Plus, he is also a medical consultant to the Cable News Network (CNN). Currently, Dr. Brawley is a member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer in Young Women.

Dr. Kate Wolin, ScD,FACSM has done research that focuses on the role of lifestyle in reducing risk of chronic diseases, like cancer, and on improving outcomes after a disease diagnosis. Much of her academic research has focused on the role exercise and obesity play in developing cancer and outcomes after a cancer diagnosis. Dr. Wolin is a frequent presenter on wellness in community settings, and she also appears on news media such as the Dr. Oz show and Second Opinion.

This year, Dr. Wolin moved her laboratory to Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine, where she is an associate professor in the Departments of Public Health Sciences & Surgery.


Biographical information about keynote speakers was acquired from the Minnesota Cancer Alliance. For more information about the 2013 Cancer Disparities Summit, go to For more information about MC3, go to

Robin James welcomes reader re sponses to