eNewsletter - Community Outreach

Cancer Institute Supports National Wear Red Day

Cancer Institute employees showed their support for women's heart health and the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women National Wear Red Day on February 6. With about eight million women in the United States currently living with heart disease, it is safe to say that almost everyone knows a woman in their life - a mother, friend, sister, grandmother, aunt—who has been affected. If you have questions about heart disease, prevention and risk factors, join a live web chat on abc27.com on March 9 from 1-2 p.m., and have your questions answered by Penn State Hershey Heart and Vascular Institute specialists.

Hematology Oncology Staff Wear Read for Hearth Month


Representing Cancer Institute administration and the Division of Hematology/Oncology are from left to right: Colleen Kelley, Rachel Rank, Lorna Lausch





Radiation Oncology Staff Wear Read for Hearth Month

Representing the Division of Radiation Oncology are from left to right (back row): Patricia Verdon, Salena Herbinko, Amy Dailey, Brandy Krause, Elizabeth Liebert, Kami Keller; (front row): Debbie Donnald, Eugenia Bartolome, Amy Aurand, Donna Rhoads.




Northern Appalachia Cancer Network Recognized as Part of Penn State's 2015 Community Engagement Classification

When the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching selected Penn State for its 2015 Community Engagement Classification, they took into account programs that demonstrated "alignment among campus mission, culture, leadership, resources and practices that support dynamic and noteworthy engagement".  A variety of community engagement efforts from around the state, country and world were included in the university's application, including the Northern Appalachia Cancer Network (NACN), a community-academic partnership that aims to reduce the incidence and death rate of cancer in Appalachian Pennsylvania and New York. Led by Eugene J. Lengerich, VMD, MS, the NACN is funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and guided by a by a 29-member advisory committee with representatives from eight county-based cancer coalitions, cancer survivors, rural health care providers, and state and regional professional organizations in Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York.

The NACN was established 21 years ago to reduce the cancer burden of medically underserved Appalachian residents through a community-based participatory approach that develops and tests community- and clinic-based strategies to empower residents, coalitions and providers with culturally appropriate, evidence-based interventions.  It is a wonderful example of community-academic partnership that has connected faculty and students to our affiliated members. Both researchers and community partners continue to benefit through this alliance.

Both NACN community partners and public health science students were a tremendous help with the NCI-funded Faith Based Initiative to Promote Health in Appalachia study through the Appalachia Community Cancer Network (ACCN).  (The NACN is a part of the ACCN, a five university research collaborative that includes Penn State, Ohio State, University of Kentucky, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia University.) In this study, community partners identified church sites in rural communities. They also served as local expert speakers for the church-based education programs. When additional staff was needed to collect baseline data, Dr. Lengerich recruited Penn State Public Health Science students and ACCN trainees (post-graduates) to assist. The experience helped them gain real life research experience helping participants understand the informed consent process, taking biometric measurements and collecting surveys. 

Strong WomanAnother excellent example of the community and internal benefits of engagement was the New STEPS (Strength Through Education, Physical fitness and Support) for Breast Health pilot study funded by the Pittsburgh Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Community partners helped identify local program leaders along with nine intervention sites in six counties. Since the program was adapted from the successful osteoporosis prevention StrongWomen program offered by Penn State College of Agriculture's Cooperative Extension, Extension leaders along with a nurse from Penn State Hershey Breast Health Center were asked to adapt the program and trained local program leaders. The data analysis for pilot studies was completed by 2013 MPH graduate, Nancy Gallant mentored by Dr. Lengerich. After completing her analysis, Ms. Gallant presented a poster at a national health disparities conference and co-authored a manuscript based on the results entitled, Adaptation of an Evidence-Based Intervention for Appalachian Women: New STEPS (Strength Through Education, Physical fitness and Support) for Breast Health in the Journal of Cancer Education . Ms. Gallant is currently a Doctoral Student at the University of South Carolina, Columbia.

Strong WomanThe best engagement ideas blossom from community passion. In 2014, Crawford Health Improvement Coalition (CHIC) sought ways to break down the barriers to colon cancer screening. They asked for help to identify funding to educate the public about colorectal cancer and screening.  Earlier that year, they  pledged to help the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable reach their goal of 80% screened for colorectal cancer by 2018. 

With big ideas to make colon cancer education fun, CHIC thought a giant inflatable walk-through colon may be just what was needed to get people's attention. They asked for some technical assistance from a trusted academic partner at Penn State. Penn State Research Project Manager, Marcy Bencivenga, assisted the coalition in writing a grant demonstrating the needs in mostly rural eastern Crawford County, an area with many of the characteristic cancer health disparities existing within Appalachia (low income, high poverty rates, high unemployment, and high percentages of persons without health insurance, an older population with poorer health status than the rest of the country and higher rates of premature cancer mortality due to late stage diagnosis). 

Nurse EducatorsTiming is everything. With many coalition members having completed training in the low-literacy training in 2013 and new Understanding Colon Cancer materials made available through the Outreach Core of the ACCN, CHIC was competitive when applying for a small grant available through the Pennsylvania Department of Health Colorectal Cancer Control Program. With less than $6,000, they were able to turn their passion into reality. 
Two nurse educators offered Understanding Colon Cancer at three senior centers, a YWCA and a worksite followed by barriers counseling. The barriers counseling was modeled after a pilot study conducted by Brenda Kluhsman, PhD, associate professor at Penn State. With the grant funding, CHIC was able host the eye-catching giant inflatable walk-through colon to the Titusville Relay for Life event.  Using small group tours, coalition members were able to visually show the progression of colon cancer from undetected polyps to metastatic disease and discuss other colon conditions that can raise risk for cancer. Both education programs focused on the importance of early detection. The overarching message was "Talk to your doctor about what screening test is best for you". 

NACA According to CHIC coordinator Dawn Mosbacher, RN, "This was a great team effort. Members of the coalition and the community members really came together to make this happen." Additional support from Penn State helped immensely.  "Marcy was the link to many important pieces of this project, including locating tested surveys and talking points, which greatly contributed to the success of the project. She helped find a reasonably priced giant walk through colon which created public curiosity and made education fun. The giant colon really got people talking about colon cancer. The resources provided by the NACN greatly contributed to the success of the project."