From May 2020 to July 2020, The University of Florida CaRE2 Citizen Scientist Training Program was held via virtual zoom meetings, discussions and presentations. The purpose of the CaRE2 Cancer Citizen Scientist Advocacy Training program is to inform, educate and empower community members to become cancer advocates in Florida and California. Primary objectives are to increase manpower for cancer research advocacy; strengthen the network of cancer research advocates; and increase multi-directional communication between cancer advocates with cancer survivors, community members, academic scientists and policy makers. The interactive program included self-guided reading, experiential learning, and mentoring opportunities, culminating with an advocacy project. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the classrooms were modified for 100% delivery in a virtual environment.
For two months volunteer researchers Journalist Lynn Jones (Jacksonville Free Press Associate Editor), Dr. Herman Tucker and Ken Stokes attended weekly virtual sessions that included a self-guided curriculum and the task of compiling and implementing an interactive advocacy project. The project team designed a PowerPoint plan and implemented an advocacy project for African Americans in the urban core detailing cancer research that is a high risk neighborhoods community and appropriate for today’s society target audience.
The community members, scientists and advocates are interested in cancer research and eliminating cancer health care and research disparities in Duval County. During the two month course volunteer researchers also had the opportunity to engage with speakers on topics that included: Henrietta Lacks, the Tuskegee Experiment, Social Determinants of Health, Prostate Cancer in Black Men, International Research Collaboration, Epigenetics Public Health Genomics, Medical Anthropology, Qualitative Research Methods, Cultural Competency, Planning and Evaluation of Health Programs, Maternal and Infant Health, Socio-behavioral and Health Communication.
The research team final presentation profiled the social determinants of health, featuring cancer survivors shared stories of living and thriving with cancer. Cancer survivors profiles included Florida Duval County residents: Diallo Sekou (Sarcoma Cancer) and Sintea Posen (Colon Cancer); and Michigan resident Gerri Russ (Stomach Cancer). In addition, the presentation highlighted ways to eliminate and identify pancreatic cancer prognosis and the plight of food deserts in the African American Community that denies access to healthy food options. Currently the CaRE2 Citizen Scientist Training Program is in search of individuals that are interested in cancer research to become a part of their team.